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3 • 35 CENTS 








THE RINGS OF SATURN would be one of the most spectacular 
sights encountered by space explorers Comprised of nillions of 
tiny mconlets in three bands, the rings are brighrer than the planet 
itself. Although the distance from the inner to the outer edge is 
4 1,500 miles, they are microscopically thin by comparison — ten 
miles at most — and fade away toward the inner edge. 



WORLDS of SCIENCE FICTION 

SEPTEMBER 1953 

All Stories New and Complete 

Editor: JAMES L. QU1NN 

Associate Editor: LARRY T. SHAW 

Staff Artist: ED VALICURSKY 

Cover by Km Fagg, illustrating 
A Case of Con.tr"'--- 



SHORT NOVEL 




A CASE OF CONSCIENCE by Jotr.es Blish 


4 


NOVELETTE 




THY ROCKS AND RILLS by Robert Ernest Gilbert 


76 


SHORT STORIES 




THE TROUBLE WITH BUBBLES by Philip K. Dick 


52 


PLANET OF DREAMS by James McKimmey, Jr. 


OS 


THE ROMANTIC ANALOGUE by W. W. Skupeldyckle 


102 


IN THE FOREST by Leslie Petri 


112 


FEATURES 




A CHAT WITH THE EDITOR 


2 


PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 


73 


SCIENCE BRIEFS 


99 


THE POSTMAN COMETH 


118 


COVER PICTORIAL: Saturn and Titon 





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A CHAT WITH 
THE EDITOR 

THERE WAS a cartoon I liked in 
the " 1953 Almanack" issue of 
Punch, the British humorous week- 
ly. This special issue contained an 
interplanetary section, partly hilari- 
ous and partly incomprehensible. 
The cartoon, signed by "Sprod," 
pictures a moonscape. Three Earth- 
men in bubble helmets stand gaz- 
ing at the smouldering, burned-out 
shell of their spaceship, which has 
obviously exploded and crashed. 
They arc smiling. One of them is 
saying brightly, "Ah well, thank 
■ goodness we still have our sense of 
humor." 

One of the basic assumptions, I 
suppose, is that a spaceship flying 
the Union Jack will be the first to 
reach the moon. The cartoonist is 
clearly poking some fond fun at his 
countrymen as well as at science 
fiction. And while his prediction 
may be parsecs off the orbit, his 
attitude has my warm approval. 



I won't say it's more humor that 
science fiction needs. Good science 
fiction humor is hard to write, 
largely because good humor is hard 
to write, period. There are people 
who do marvelously well at it: Wil- 
liam Tenn, Damon Knight, Fred- 
eric Brown, Mack Reynolds, Henry 
Kuttner, C. M. Kornbluth, R. Bret- 
nor, L. Sprague de Camp, Wilson 
Tucker, for instance. Fritz Leiber's 
fabulously funny "The Night He 
Cried" in Frederik Pohl's latest an- 
thology. Star Science Fiction Sto- 
ries, comes as somewhat of a sur- 
prise, but is evidence that any good 
writer can do it even though it's 
not his usual forte. 

What have these people got be- 
sides basic writing talent, science 
fictional imaginations, and the will- 
ingness to work hard for love of the 
medium first and remuneration sec- 
ond? Not just a sense of humor, 
surely. It's more all-encompassing 
ili. in that. 

I THINK it is simply a certain 
amount of healthy perspective, an 
ability to step back from a problem 
and view it from various angles. 
This is a highly desirable quality 
for any writer and any person, but 
that doesn't mean everyone who 
writes science fiction has it! There 
has always been bad science fiction. 
We're extremely fortunate that 
the percentage is not noticeably 
higher than before, now that the 
field has expanded so enormously. 
The world today is in many ways 
a gloomy and frightening place. It 
will quite likely get worse before it 
gets better. It's even possible that 
man will blow himself and his 
works completely to smithereens . . . 



Wait a minute, though — com- 
pletely to smithereens? Shucks, al- 
most nothing succeeds that well. 
Somebody and something would be 
left after the smash. And it wouldn't 
have to be a primitive tribe of rain- 
worshippers in the Brazilian jungles, 
one lone man who just happened 
to be down in a mine shaft (while 
all the miners elsewhere in the 
world were out on strike, presum- 
ably), or (this one is more rare 
now, anyway) Prof. Superpill and 
his carefully selected group of vege- 
tarians in their invisible dome of 
force at the South Pole. It could 
be a small town in the Ozarks; you 
find some surprisingly intellectual 
and creative crannies of culture 
tliiic. believe it or not! It could be 
a comic opera-type Balkan king- 
dom, population 317 including the 
village werewolf and a beautiful 
princess, which has been so neutral 
for centuries that it has even pro- 
hibited radios for fear the children 
might learn the word "war." It 
could . . . But you get the idea ; take 
it from there and write a story! 

Another theme dear to would-be 
science fiction writers these days is 
the idea of Earth's civilization be- 
ing unacceptable to the representa- 
tives of the Galactic Federation. 
These superbeings, you know, put 
up "No Trespassing" signs just be- 
yond our atmosphere, reverse the 
laws of physics so that rockets do 
need something to push against, or 
just plain smack us out of existence 
with a cosmic flyswatter. 

It can be done well, and some- 
times is. But since most of us are 
incapable of figuring out how com- 
pletely rational beings would act, 
and even less capable of making 



such beings convincing on paper, 
there's little excuse for writing it 
again without a new twist. Why 
not give the Galactic Federation 
some eccentricities? 

LET'S NOT have Pollyanna-ism. 
If an unhappy ending is called for, 
it should be used. (I keep insisting 
that the essence of true tragedy is 
its inevitability. I get into more 
darned arguments that way — but 
can you prove me wrong with ex- 
amples from literature?) I won't 
reject a good story if it's unhappy. 
It can even be unpleasant; shock 
value can be highly effective if con- 
trolled properly, I won't buy a bad 
story just for a few yuks. But I'll 
always suspect that the writer who 
is willing to at least attempt humor 
is a healthier specimen than the 
constant doom-crier. 

The lowliest newspaper colum- 
nist can indulge in all the dire fore- 
bodings we need. If science fiction 
is going to be distinguishable from 
a newspaper column, it has no 
choice but to consider the infinite 
possibilities of our not blowing our- 
selves up tomorrow. If the world of 
today looks bleak to you, extend its 
trends until they become ridiculous. 
Remember that there will always be 
counter-trends. Or forget them all. 
and create a whole new world. If 
it's consistent within its own terms, 
it can be the basis for a good story. 

Nobody will write that story 
while worrying himself sick over 
when the bombs are going to fall. 
He'll write it when he starts con- 
sidering ways to keep the bombs 
from falling. And that includes, of 
course, the repeal of the law of 
gravity. — Its 




m 



V;'y 








Rarely, if ever, has science fiction plumbed so deeply 
and with such sensitivity the depths of human 
thoughts and emotions as in this case. For here, Earth- 
men's vote has a direct effect upon the future of a 
planet, their own culture and the universe itself. 



A CASE OF 

CONSCIENCE 

By James Blish 

Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



THE STONE door slammed. It 
was Cleaver's trade-mark : there 
had never been a door too heavy*, 
complex, or cleverly tracked to pre- 
vent him from closing it with a 
sound like a clap of doom. And no 
planet in the universe could possess 
an air sufficiently thick and cur- 
tained with damp to muffle that 
sound. Not even Lithia. 

Ruiz-Sanchez continued to read. 
It would take Cleaver's impatient 
fingers quite a while to free him 
from his jungle suit, and in the 
meantime the problem remained. 
It was a century-old problem, first 
propounded in 1939, but the 
Church had never cracked it. And 
it was diabolically complex (that 
adverb was official, precisely chosen 
and literally intended ) . Even the 



novel which proposed the case was 
on the Index, and Father Ramon 
Ruiz-Sanchez, S. J., had access to 
it only by virtue of his Order. 

He turned the page, scarcely 
hearing the stamping and mutter- 
ing in the hall. On and on the text 
ran, becoming more tangled, more 
evil, more insoluble with every 
word: 

". . . and Magravius knows from 
spies that Anita has formerly com- 
mitted double sacrilege with Mi- 
chael, vulgo Cemlarius, a perpetual 
curate, who wishes to seduce 
Eugenius. Magravius threatens to 
have Anita molested by Sulla, an 
orthodox savage (and leader of a 
band of twelve mercenaries, the 
Sullivani), who desires to procure 
Felicia for Gregorius, Leo, Vxteilius 



JAMES BLISH 



and Macdugalius, four excavators, 
if she will not yield to htm and also 
deceive Honuphrius by rendering 
conjugal duty when demanded. 
Anita, who claims to have discov- 
ered incestuous temptations from 
Jercmias and Eugenius — " 

There now, he was lost again. He 
backtracked resignedly. Jeremias 
and Eugenius were — ? Oh, yes, the 
"brotherly lovers" at the beginning 
of the case, consanguineous to the 
lowest degree with both Felicia and 
Honuphrius — the latter the appar- 
ent prime villain and the husband 
of Anita. It was Magravius, who 
seemed to admire Honuphrius, who 
had been urged by the slave Mari- 
tius to solicit Anita, seemingly un- 
der the urging of Honuphrius him- 
self. This, however, had come to 
Anita through her tirewoman For- 
tissa, who was or at one time had 
been the common-law wife of 
Mauritius himself and had borne 
him children — so that the whole 
story had to be weighed with the 
utmost caution. And that entire 
initial confession of Honuphrius 
had come out under torture — vol- 
untarily consented to, to be lure, 
but still torture. The Fortissa-Mau- 
ritius relationship was even more 
dubious, really only a supposition of 
Father Ware's, though certainly a 
plausible one considering the public 
repentance of Sulla after the death 
of Canicula, who was — yes, that 
was correct, Mauritius' second 
wife. No, his first wife; he had 
never been legally married to For- 
tissa. It was Magravius' desire for 
Felicia after the death of Gillia that 
had confused him there. 

"Ramon, give me a hand, will 
you?'* Cleaver shouted suddenly. 



"I'm stuck and — and I don't feel 
well." 

The Jesuit biologist arose in 
alarm. Such an admission from 
Cleaver was unprecedented. 



THE PHYSICIST was sitting on 
a pouf of woven rushes, stuffed 
with a sphagnum-Hke moss, which 
was bulging at the equator under 
his weight. He was half-way out of 
his glass-fiber jungle suit, and his 
face was white and beaded with 
sweat, although his helmet was al- 
ready off. His uncertain fingers tore 
at a jammed zipper. 

"Paul! Why didn't you say you 
were ill in the first place? Here, let 
go of that; you're only making 
things worse. What happened?" 

"Don't know exactly," Cleaver 
said, breathing heavily but relin- 
quishing the zipper. Ruiz-Sanchez 
knelt beside him and began to work 
it carefully back onto its tracks. 
"Went a ways into the jungle to see 
if I could spot more pegmatite lies; 
it's been in the back of my mind 
that a pilot-plant for turning out 
tritium might locate here eventual- 
ly — ought to be able to produce on 
a prodigious scale." 

"God forbid," Ruiz-Sanchez said 
under his breath. 

"Hm? Anyhow, I didn't se<j any- 
thing. Few lizards, hoppers, the us- 
ual thing. Then I ran up against a 
plant that looked a little like a pine- 
apple, and one of the spines jabbed 
right through my suit and nicked 
me. Didn't seem serious, but — " 

"But we don't have the suits for 
nothing. Let's look at it. Here, 
put up your feet and we'll haul 
those boots off. Where did you get 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



■ — oh. Well, it's angry-looking, I'll 
give it that. Any other symptoms?" 

"My mouth feels raw," Cleaver 
complained. 

"Open up," the Jesuit com- 
manded. When Cleaver complied, 
it became evident that his com- 
plaint had been the understatement 
of the year. The mucosa inside his 
mouth was nearly covered with ugly 
and undoubtedly painful ulcers, 
their edges as sharply defined as if 
cut with a cookie-punch. 

Ruiz-Sanchez made no comment, 
however, and deliberately changed 
his expression to one of carefully 
calculated dismissal. If the physicist 
needed to minimize his ailments, it 
was all right with Ruiz-Sanchez. 
An alien planet is not a good place 
to strip a man of his inner defenses. 
"Come into the lab," he said. 
"You've got some inflammation in 
there." 

Cleaver arose, a little unsteadily, 
and followed the Jesuit into the 
laboratory. There Ruiz-Sanchez 
took smears from several of the ul- 
cers onto microscope slides and 
Gram-stained them. He filled the 
time consumed by the staining proc- 
ess with the ritual of aiming the 
microscope's substage mirror out 
the window at a brilliant white 
cloud. When the timer's alarm went 
off, he rinsed and flame-dried the 
first slide and slipped it under the 
clips. 

As he had half feared, he saw 
few of the mixed bacilli and spiro- 
chetes which would have indicated 
a case of ordinary, Earthly, Vin- 
cent's angina — which the clinical 
picture certainly suggested. Cleav- 
er's oral flora were normal, though 
on the increase because of all the 



exposed tissue. 

"I'm going to give you a shot," 
Ruiz-Sanchez said gently. "And 
then I think vou'd better go to 
bed." 

"The hell with that," Cleaver 
said. "I've got nine times as much 
work to do as I can hope to clean 
up, without any additional handi- 
caps." 

"Illness is never convenient," 
Ruiz-Sanchez agreed. "But why 
worry about losing a day or so, since 
you're in over your head anyhow?" 

"What have I got?" Cleaver 
asked suspiciously. 

"Vnu haven't got anything." 
Ruiz-Sanchez said, almost regret- 
fully. "That is, you aren't infected. 
But your 'pineapple' did you a bad 
turn. Most plants of that family on 
Lithia bear thorns or leaves coated 
with polysaccharides that are poi- 
sonous to us. The particular gluco- 
side you got today was evidently 
squill, or something closely related 
to it. It produces symptoms like 
those of trench-mouth, but a lot 
harder to clear up." 

"How long will that take?" 
Cleaver said. He was still balking, 
but he was on the defensive now. 

"Several days at least — until 
you've built up an immunity. The 
shot I'm going to give you is a gam- 
ma globulin specific against squill, 
and it ought to moderate the symp- 
toms until you've developed a high 
antibody titer of your own. But in 
the process you're going to run 
quite a fever. Paul; and I'll have to 
keep you well stuffed with anti- 
pyretics, because even a little fever 
is dangerous in this climate." 

"I know it/" Cleaver said, mol- 
lified. "The more I learn about this 



JAMES BLISH 



place, the less disposed I am to 
vote 'aye' when the time comes. 
Well, bring on your shot — and your 
aspirin. I suppose I ought to be 
glad it isn't a bacterial infection, 
or the Snakes would be jabbing me 
full of antibiotics." 

"Small chance of that," Ruiz- 
Sanchez said. "I don't doubt that 
the Lithians have at least a hun- 
dred different antibiotics we'll be 
able to use eventually, but — there, 
that's all there is to it; you can re- 
lax now — but we'll have to study 
their pharmacology from the 
ground up, first. All right, Paul, 
hit the hammock. In about ten 
minutes you're going to wish you 
were born dead, that I promise 
you." 



C LEAVER grinned. His sweaty 
face under its thatch of dirty 
blond hair was craggy and power- 
ful even in illness. He stood up and 
deliberately rolled down his sleeve. 
"Not much doubt about how you'll 
vote, either," he said. "You like this 
planet, don't you, Ramon? It's a 
biologist's paradise, as far as I can 
see." 

"I do like it," the priest said, 
smiling back. He followed Cleaver 
into the small room which served 
them both as sleeping quarters. Ex- 
cept for the window, it strongly 
resembled the inside of a jug. The 
walls were curving and continuous, 
and were made of some ceramic 
material which never beaded or felt 
wet, but never seemed to be quite 
dry, either. The hammocks were 
slung from hooks which projected 
smoothly from the walls. "But don't 
forget that Lithia's my first extra- 



solar planet. I think I'd find any 
new, habitable world fascinating. 
The infinite mutability of life- 
forms, and the cunning inherent in 
each of them . . . It's all amazing 
and very delightful." 

Cleaver sprawled heavily in his 
hammock. After a decent interval, 
Ruiz-Sanchez took the liberty of 
heaving up after him the foot he 
seemed to have forgotten. Cleaver 
didn't notice. The reaction was set- 
ting in. 

"Read me no tracts, Father," 
Cleaver said. Then: "I didn't mean 
that. I'm sorry . . . But for a physi- 
cist, this place is hell . . . You'd bet- 
ter get me that aspirin. I'm cold." 

"Surely.'* Ruiz-Sanchez went 
quickly back into the lab, made up 
a salicylate-barbiturate paste in one 
of the Lithians' superb mortars, and 
pressed it into a set of pills. He 
wished he could stamp each pill 
"Bayer" before it dried — if Cleav- 
er's personal cure-all was aspirin, it 
would be just as well to let him 
think he was taking aspirin— but he 
had no dies for the purpose. He 
took two of the pills back to Cleaver 
with a mug and a carafe of Berke- 
field-filtcred water. 

The big man was already asleep; 
Ruiz-Sanchez woke him. Cleaver 
would sleep longer and awake 
farther along the road to recov- 
ery if he were done that small un- 
kindncss now. As it was, he hardly 
noticed when the pills were put 
down him, and soon resumed his 
heavy, troubled breathing. 

That done, Ruiz-Sanchez re- 
turned to the front room of the 
house, sat down, and began to in- 
spect the jungle suit. The tear 
which the plant spine had made 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



was not difficult to find, and would 
be easy to repair. It would be much 
harder to repair Cleaver's notion 
that their defenses were invulner- 
able, and that plants could be 
blundered against with impunity. 
Ruiz-Sanchez wondered if one or 
both of the other members of the 
Commission still shared that notion. 

Cleaver had called the thing 
which had brought him low a 
"pineapple." Any biologist could 
have told Cleaver that even on 
Earth the pineapple is a prolific and 
dangerous weed, edible only by a 
happy and irrelevant accident. In 
Hawaii, as Ruiz-Sanchez remem- 
bered, the tropical forest was quite 
impassible to anyone not wearing 
heavy boots and tough trousers. The 
close-packed, irrepressible pineap- 
ples outside of the plantations could 
tear unprotected legs to ribbons. 

The Jesuit turned the suit over. 
The zipper that Cleaver had 
jammed was made of a plastic into 
the molecule of which had been in- 
corporated radicals from various 
Terrestrial anti-fungal substances, 
chiefly thiolutin. The fungi of 
Lithia respected these, all right, 
but the' elaborate molecule of the 
plastic itself had a tendency, under 
Lithian humidities and heats, to 
undergo polymerization more or 
less spontaneously. That was what 
had happened here . One of the 
teeth of the zipper had changed 
into something resembling a piece 
of popcorn. 



IT GREW slowly dark as Ruiz- 
Sanchez worked. There was a 
muted puff of sound, and the room 
was illuminated with small, soft 



yellow flames from recesses in every 
wall. The burning substance was 
natural gas, of which Lithia had an 
inexhaustible and constantly re- 
newed supply. The flames were lit 
by adsorption against a catalyst, as 
soon as the gas came on. A lime 
mantle, which worked on a rack 
and pinion of heatproof glass, could 
be moved into the flame to provide 
a brighter light; but the priest liked 
the yellow light the Lithians them- 
selves preferred, and used the lime- 
light only in the laboratory. 

For some things, of course, the 
Earthmen had to have electricity, 
for which they had been forced to 
supply their own generators. The 
Lithians had a far more advanced 
science of electrostatics than Earth 
had, but of electrodynamics they 
knew comparatively little. They 
had discovered magnetism only a 
few years before, since natura 1 
magnets were unknown on the 
planet. They had first observed the 
phenomenon, not in iron, of which 
they had next to none ; but in liquid 
oxygen — a difficult substance from 
which to make generator coil cores ! 

The results in terms of Lithian 
civilization were peculiar, to an 
Earthman. The tall, reptilian peo- 
ple had built several huge electro- 
static generators and scores of little 
ones, but had nothing even vaguely 
resembling telephones. They knew 
a great deal on the practical level 
about electrolysis, but carrying a 
current over a long distance — say 
one kilometer — was regarded by 
them as impossible. They had no 
electric motors as an Earthman 
would understand the term, but 
made fast intercontinental flights in 
jet aircraft powered by static elec- 



10 



JAMES BLISH 



tricity. Cleaver said he understood 
this feat, but Ruiz-Sanchez certain- 
ly did not. 

They had a completely marvel- 
ous radio network, which among 
other things provided a "live" navi- 
gational grid for the whole planet, 
zeroed on (and here perhaps was 
the epitome of the Lithian genius 
for paradox) a tree. Yet they had 
never produced a commercial vac- 
uum tube and their atomic theory 
was not much more sophisticated 
than Democritus' had been! 

These paradoxes, of course, could 
be explained in part by the things 
that Lithia lacked. Like any large 
rotating mass, Lithia had a mag- 
netic field of its own, but a planet 
which almost entirely lacks iron 
provides its people with no easy 
way to discover magnetism. Radio- 
activity, at least until the Earthmen 
had arrived, had been entirely un- 
known on the surface of Lithia, 
which explained the hazy atomic 
theory. Like the Greeks, the Lith- 
ians had discovered that friction be- 
tween silk and glass produces one 
kind of charge, and between silk 
and amber another. They had gone 
on from there to Widmanstetten 
generators, electrochemistry, and 
the static jet — but without suitable 
metals they were unable to make 
batteries or do more than begin to 
study electricity in motion. 

In the fields where they had been 
given fair clues, they had made 
enormous progress. Despite the con- 
stant cloudiness and endemic driz- 
zle, their descriptive astronomy was 
excellent, thanks to the fortunate 
presence of a small moon which 
had drawn their attention outward 
early. This in turn made for basic 



advances in optics. Their chemistry 
took full advantage of both the seas 
and the jungles. From the one they 
took such vital and diversified prod- 
ucts as agar, iodine, salt, trace 
metals, and foods of many kinds. 
The other provided nearly every- 
thing else that they needed : resins, 
rubbers, woods of all degrees of 
hardness, edible and essential oils, 
vegetable "butters," rope and other 
fibers, fruits and nuts, tannins, 
dyes, drugs, cork, paper. Indeed, 
the sole forest product which they 
did not take was game, and the 
reason for this oversight was hard 
to find. It seemed to the Jesuit to 
be religious — yet the Lithians had 
no religion, and they certainly ate 
many of the creatures of the sea 
without qualms of conscience. 



HE DROPPED the jungle suit 
into his lap with a sigh, though 
the popcorned tooth still was not 
completely trimmed back into 
shape. Outside, in the humid dark- 
ness, Lithia was in full concert. It 
was a vital, somehow fresh, new- 
sounding drone, covering most of 
the sound spectrum audible to an 
Earthman. It came from the myr- 
iad insects of Lithia. Many of these 
had wiry, ululating songs, almost 
like birds, in addition to die scrapes 
and chirrups and wing-buzzes of the 
insects of Earth. 

Had Eden sounded like that, be- 
fore evil had come into the world? 
Ruiz-Sanchez wondered. Certainly 
his native Peru sang no such song. 
Qualms of conscience — these were, 
in the long run, his essential busi- 
ness, rather than the taxonomical 
jungles of biology, which had al- 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



II 



ready become tangled into near- 
hopelessness on Earth before space- 
flight had come along to add whole 
new volumes of puzzles. It was only 
interesting that the Lithians were 
bipedal reptiles with marsupial -like 
pouches and pteropsid circulatory 
systems. But it was vital that they 
had qualms of conscience — if they 
did. 

He and the other three men 
were on Lithia to decide whether 
or not Lithia wotild be suitable as a 
port of call for Earth, without risk 
of damage to either Earthmen or 
Lithians. The other three men 
were primarily scientists, but Ruiz- 
Sanchez* own recommendation 
would in the long run depend upon 
conscience, not upon taxonomy. 

He looked down at the still-im- 
perfect suit with a troubled face un- 
til he heard Cleaver moan. Then 
he arose and left the room to the 
softly hissing flames. 



II 

FROM THE OVAL front win- 
dow of the house to which 
Cleaver and Ruiz-Sanchez had 
been assigned, the la nd slanted 
away with insidious gentleness to- 
ward the ill-defined south edge of 
Lower Bay, a part of the Gulf of 
Sfath. Most of the area was salt 
marsh, as was the sea-side nearly 
everywhere on Lithia. When the 
tide was in, the flats were covered 
to a depth of a meter or so almost 
half the way to the house. When 
it was out, as it was tonight, the 
jungle symphony was augmented 
by the agonized barking of a score 
of species of lungfish. Occasionally, 



when the small moon was unoc- 
cluded and the light from the city 
was unusually bright, one could 
see the leaping shadow of some 
amphibian, or the sinuously ad- 
vancing sigmoid track of the Lith- 
ian crocodile, in pursuit of some 
prey faster than itself but which it 
would nonetheless capture in its 
own geological good time. 

Still farther — and usually invisi- 
ble even in daytime because of the 
pervasive mists — was the opposite 
shore of Lower Bay, beginning with 
tidal flats again, and then more 
jungle, which ran unbroken there- 
after for hundreds of kilometers to 
the equatorial sea. 

Behind the house, visible from 
the sleeping room, was the rest of 
the city, Xoredeshch Sfath, capitol 
of the great southern continent. 
Like all the cities the Lithians built, 
its most striking characteristic to an 
Earthman was that it hardly 
seemed to be there at all. The Lith- 
ian houses were low, and made of 
the earth which had been dug from 
their foundations, so that they 
tended to fade into die soil even to 
a trained observer. 

Most of the older buildings were 
rectangular, put together without 
mortar of rammed-earth blocks. 
Over the course of decades the 
blocks continued to pack and set- 
tle themselves until it became eas- 
ier to abandon an unwanted build- 
ing than to tear it down. One of 
the first setbacks the Earthmen had 
suffered on Lithia had come 
through an ill-advised offer to raze 
one such structure with TDX, a 
gravity-polarized explosive un- 
known to the Lithians. The ware- 
house in question was large, thick- 



12 



JAMES BLISH 



walled, and three Lithian centuries 
old. The explosion created an up- 
roar which greatly distressed the 
Lithians, but when it was over, the 
storehouse still stood, unshaken. 

Newer structures were more con- 
spicuous when the sun was out, for 
just during the past half century 
the Lithians had begun to apply 
their enormous knowledge of 
ceramics to house construction. The 
new houses assumed thousands of 
fantastic, quasi -biological shapes, 
not quite amorphous but not quite 
resembling any form in experience 
either. Each one was unique and to 
the choice of its owner, yet all 
markedly shared the character of 
the community and the earth from 
which it sprang. These houses, too, 
would have blended well with the 
background of soil and jungle, ex- 
cept that most of them were glazed 
and so shone blindingly for brief 
moments on sunny days when the 
light and the angle of the observer 
was just right. These shifting corus- 
cations, seen from the air, had been 
the Earthmen's first intimation that 
there was intelligent life in the 
ubiquitous Lithian jungle. 

Ruiz-Sanchez looked out the 
sleeping-room window at the city 
for at least the ten thousandth time 
on his way to Cleaver's hammock. 
Xoredeshch Sfath was alive to him ; 
it never looked the same twice. He 
found it singularly beautiful. 

He checked Cleaver's pulse and 
respiration. Both were fast, even for 
Lithia, where a high carbon diox- 
ide partial pressure raised the pH 
of the blood of Earthmen to an ab- 
normal level and stimulated the 
breathing reflex. The priest judged, 
however, that Cleaver was in little 



danger as long as his actual oxygen 
utilization was not increased. At 
the moment he was certainly sleep- 
ing deeply — if not very restfully — 
and it would do no harm to leave 
him alone for a little while. 

Of course, if a wild allosaur 
should blunder into the city . . . 
But that was about as likely as the 
blundering of an untended elephant 
into the heart of New Delhi. It 
could happen, but almost never did. 
And no other dangerous Lithian 
animal could break into the house 
if it were sealed. 



RUIZ-SANCHEZ checked the 
carafe of fresh water in the 
niche beside the hammock, went 
into the hall, and donned hoots, 
macintosh and waterproof hat. The 
night sounds of Lithia burst in up- 
on him as he opened the stone 
door, along with a gust of sea air 
and the characteristic halogen odor 
most people call "salty." There was 
a thin drizzle falling, making haloes 
around the lights of Xoredeshch 
Sfath. Far out, on the water, an- 
other light moved. That was prob- 
ably the coastal side-wheeler to 
Yllith, the enormous island which 
stood athwart the Upper Bay, bar- 
ring the Gulf of Sfath as a whole 
from the equatorial sea. 

Outside, Ruiz-Sanchez turned 
die wheel which extended bolts on 
every margin of the door. Drawing 
from his macintosh a piece of soft 
chalk, he marked on the sheltered 
tablet designed for such uses the 
Lithian symbols which meant "Ill- 
ness is here." That would be suf- 
ficient. Anybody who chose to could 
open the door simply by turning 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



K 



the wheel, hut the Lithians were 
overridingly social beings, who re- 
spected their own conventions as 
they would respect natural law. 

That done, Ruiz-Sanchez set out 
for the center of the city and the 
Message Tree. The asphalt streets 
shone in the yellow lights cast from 
windows, and in the white light of 
the mantled, wide-spaced street 
lanterns. Occasionally he passed the 
eight-foot, kangaroo-like shape of a 
Lithian, and the two exchanged 
glances of frank curiosity, but there 
were not many Lithians abroad 
now. They kept to their houses at 
night, doing Ruiz-Sanchez knew 
not what. He could see them fre- 
quently, alone or by twos or threes, 
moving behind the oval windows of 
the houses he passed. Sometimes 
they seemed to be talking. 

What about? 

It was a nice question. The Lith- 
ians had no crime, no newspapers, 
no household communications sys- 
tems, no arts that could be differen- 
tiated clearly from their crafts, no 
political parties, no public amuse- 
ments, no nations, no games, no re- 
ligions, no sports, no celebrations. 
Surely they didn't spend every wak- 
ing minute of their lives exchanging 
knowledge, discussing philosophy or 
history? Or did they? Perhaps, 
Ruiz-Sanchez thought suddenly, 
they simply went inert once they 
were inside their jugs, like so many 
pickles! But even as the thought 
came, the priest passed another 
house, and saw their silhouettes 
moving to and fro . . . 

A puff of wind scattered cool 
droplets in his face. Automatically, 
he quickened his step. If the night 
were to turn out especially windy, 



there would doubtless be many 
voices coming and going in the 
Message Tree. It loomed ahead of 
him now, a sequoia-like giant, 
standing at the mouth of the valley 
of the River Sfath — the valley 
which led in great serpentine folds 
into the heart of the continent, 
where Gleshchetk Sfath, or Blood 
Lake in English, poured out its 
massive torrents. 

As the winds came and went 
along the valley, the tree nodded 
and swayed. With every move- 
ment, the tree's root system, which 
underlay the entire city, tugged 
and distorted the buried crystalline 
cliff upon which the city had been 
founded, as long ago in Lithian pre- 
history as was the founding of 
Rome on Earth. At every such pres- 
sure, the buried clifT responded with 
a vast heart-pulse of radio waves — 
a pulse detectable not only all over 
Lithia, but far out in space as well. 

These bursts, of course, were 
sheer noise. How the Lithians 
modified them to carry information 
— not only messages, but the amaz- 
ing navigational grid, the planet- 
wide time-signal system, and much 
more — was something Ruiz-San- 
chez never expected to learn, al- 
though Cleaver said it was all per- 
fectly simple once you understood 
it. It had something to do with 
semi-conduction and solid-state 
physics, which — again according to 
Cleaver — the Lithians understood 
better than any Earthman. 

Almost all knowledge, Ruiz-San- 
chez reflected with amusement, fell 
into that category. It was either 
perfectly simple once you under- 
stood it, or else it fell apart into 
fiction. As a Jesuit — even here, 40 



14 



JAMES BLISH 



Jight-years from Rome — Ruiz-San- 
chez knew .something about knowl- 
edge that Cleaver would never 
learn : that all "knowledge goes 
through both stages, the annuncia- 
tion out of noise into fact and the 
disintegration back into noise again. 
The process involved was the mak- 
ing of increasingly finer distinctions. 
The outcome was an endless series 
of theoretical catastrophes. The 
residuum was faith. 



THE HIGH, sharply vaulted 
chamber, like an egg stood on 
its large end, which had been 
burned out in the base of the Mes- 
sage Tree was droning with life as 
Ruiz-Sanchez entered it. It would 
have been difficult to imagine any- 
thing less like an Earthly telegraph 
office or other message center, how- 
ever. 

Around the circumference of the 
lower end of the egg there was a 
continual whirling of tall figures, 
Lithians entering and leaving 
through the many doorless en- 
trances and changing places in 
the swirl of movement like so many 
electrons passing from orbit to 
orbit. Despite their numbers, their 
voices were pitched so low that 
Ruiz-Sanchez could hear blended in 
with their murmuring the soughing 
of the wind through the enormous 
branches far aloft. 

The inner side of this band of 
moving figures was bounded by a 
high railing of black, polished 
wood, evidently cut from the 
phloem of the tree itself. On the 
other side of this Encke's Division 
a thin circlet of Lithians took and 
passed out messages steadily and 



without a moment's break, han- 
dling the total load faultlessly — if 
one were to judge by the way the 
outer band was kept in motion — 
and without apparent effort by 
memory alone. Occasionally one of 
these specialists would leave the 
circlet and go to one of the desks 
which were scattered over most of 
the rest of the sloping floor, in- 
creasingly thinly, like a Crepe 
Ring, to confer there with the 
desk's occupant. Then he went back 
to the black rail, or, sometimes, he 
took the desk and its previous occu- 
pant went to the rail. 

The bowl deepened, the desks 
thinned, and at the very center 
stood a single, aged Lithian, his 
hands clapped to the ear-whorls 
behind his heavy jaws, his eyes cov- 
ered by their nictitating membrane, 
only his nasal fossae and heat-re- 
ceptive postnasal pits uncovered. 
He spoke to no one, and no one 
consulted him — but the absolute 
stasis in which he stood was obvi- 
ously the reason, the sole reason, 
for die torrents and counter torrents 
of people which poured along the 
outermost ring. 

Ruiz-Sanchez stopped, aston- 
ished. He had never himself been 
to the Message Tree before — com- 
municating with the other two 
earthmen on Lithia had been, until 
now, one of Cleaver's tasks — and 
the priest found that he had no 
idea what to do. The scene before 
him was more suggestive of a bourse 
than of a message center in any 
ordinary sense. It seemed unlikely 
that so many Lithians could have 
urgent personal messages to send 
each time the winds were active; 
yet it seemed equally uncharacter- 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



15 



istic that the Lithians, with their 
stable, abundance-based economy, 
should have any equivalent of stock 
or commodity brokerage. 

There seemed to be no choice, 
however, but to plunge in, try to 
Itach the polished black rail, and 
ask one of those who stood on the 
other side to try and raise Agron- 
ski or Michelis again. At worst, he 
supposed, he could only be refused, 
or fail to get a hearing at all. He 
took a deep breath. 

Simultaneously, his left elbow 
was caught in a firm four-fingered 
grip. Letting the stored breath out 
again in a snort of surprise, the 
priest looked around and up at the 
solicitously bent head of a Lithian. 
Under the long, trap-like mouth, 
the being's wattles were a delicate, 
curious aquamarine, in contrast to 
its vestigial comb, which was a 
permanent and silvery sapphire, 
shot through with veins of fuchsia. 
r "You are Ruiz-Sanchez," the 
Lithian said in his own language. 
The priest's name, unlike that of 
most of the other Earthmen, fell 
easily in that tongue. "I know you 
by your robe." 

This was pure chance; any 
Earthman out in the rain in a mac- 
intosh would have been identified 
;is Ruiz-Sanchez, because he was the 
only Earthman who seemed to the 
Lithians to wear the same garment 
indoors. "I am Chtexa, the metal- 
list, who consulted with you earlier 
on medicine and on your mission 
and other matters. We have not 
seen you here before. Do you wish 
to talk with the Tree?*' 

"I do," Ruiz-Sanchez said grate- 
fully. "It is so that I am new here. 



Can you explain to me what to 
do?" 

"Yes, but not to any profit," 
Chtexa said, tilting his head so that 
his completely inky pupils shone 
down in to Ruiz-Sanchez' eyes. 
"One must have observed the 
ritual, which is very complex, until 
it is habit. We have grown up with 
it, but you I think lack the co- 
ordination to follow it on the first 
attempt. If I may bear your mes- 
sage instead . . ." 

"I would be most indebted. It is 
for our colleagues Agronski and 
Michelis. They are at Xorcdeshch 
Gton on the northeast continent, at 
about 32° East 32° North—" 

"Yes, the second benchmark, at 
the outlet of the Lesser Lakes; the 
city of the potters. And you will 
say?" 

"That they arc to join us now, 
here, at Xoredeshch Sfath. And 
that our time on Lithia is almost 
up." 

"That me regard*. But I will 
bear it." 



CHTEXA LEAPT into the 
whirling crowd, and Ruiz- 
Sanchez was left behind, consider- 
ing again his thankfulness at the 
pains he had taken to learn the 
Lithian language. Several members 
of the Terrestrial commission had 
shown a regrettable lack of interest 
in that tongue: "Let 'em learn 
English," had been Cleaver's classic 
formulation. Ruiz-Sanchez was all 
the less likely to view diis idea sym- 
pathetically considering that his 
own native language was Spanish 
and his preferred foreign language 
German. 



16 



JAMES BLISH 



Agronski had taken a slightly 
more sophisticated stand: it was 
not, he said, that Lithian was too 
difficult to pronounce — certainly it 
wasn't any harder than Arabic or 
Russian on the soft palate — but, 
after all, "it's hopeless to attempt 
to grasp the concepts that He be- 
hind a really alien language in the 
time we have to spend here, isn't 
it?" 

To both views, Michelis had said 
nothing; he had simply set out to 
learn to read the language first, 
and if he found his way from there 
into speaking it, he would not be 
surprised and neither would his 
confreres. That was Michelis' way 
of doing things, thorough and un- 
theoretical at the same time. As for 
the other two approaches, Ruiz- 
Sanchez thought privately that it 
was close to criminal to allow any 
contact-man for a new planet ever 
to leave Earth with such parochial 
notions. Of Cleaver's tendency to 
refer to the Lithians themselves as 
"the Snakes," Ruiz-Sanchez' opin- 
ion was such as to be admissible 
only to his remote confessor. 

And in view of what lay before 
him now in this egg-shaped hollow, 
what was Ruiz-Sanchez to think of 
Cleaver's conduct as communica- 
tions officer for the group? Surely 
he could never have transmitted or 
received a single message through 
the Tree, as he had claimed to have 
done. Probably he had never been 
nearer to the Tree than the priest 
had been. 

Of course, it went without saying 
that he had been in contact with 
Agronski and Michelis by some 
method, but that method evidently 
had been a private transmitter con- 



cealed in his luggage. . . Yet, 
physicist though he most definitely 
was not, Ruiz-Sanchez rejected that 
solution on the spot; he had some 
idea of the practical difficulties of 
ham radio on a world like Lithia, 
swamped as it was on all wave- 
lengths by the tremendous pulses 
which the Tree wrung from the 
buried crystalline cliff. The prob- 
lem was beginning to make him 
feel decidedly uncomfortable. 

Then Chtexa was back, recogniz- 
able not so much by any physical 
detail — for his wattles were now the 
same ambiguous royal purple as 
those of most of the other Lithians 
in the crowd — as by the fact that 
he was obviously bearing down 
upon the Earthman. 

"I have sent your message," he 
said at once. "It is recorded at 
Xoredeshch Gton. But the other 
Earthmen are not there. They have 
not been in the city for some days." 

That was impossible. Cleaver had 
said he had spoken to Agronski only 
a day ago. "Are you sure?" Ruiz- 
Sanchez said cautiously. 

"It admits of no uncertainty. The 
house which we gave them stands 
empty. The many things which they 
had with them are gone." The tall 
shape raised its small hands in a 
gesture which might have been 
solicitous. "I think this is an ill 
word. I dislike to bring it you. The 
words which you brought me when 
we first met were full of good." 

"Thank you. Don't worry," Ruiz- 
Sanchez said distractedly. "No man 
could hold the bearer responsible 
for the word, surely." 

"Whom else would he hold 
responsible for it? At least that is 
our custom," Chtexa said. "And un- 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



17 



der it, you have lost by our ex- 
change. Your words on iron have 
been shown to contain great good. 
I would take pleasure in showing 
you how we have used them, es- 
pecially so since I have brought you 
in return an ill message. If you 
would share my house tonight, 
without prejudice to your work . . , 

Sternly Ruiz-Sanchez stifled his 
sudden excitement. Here was the 
first chance, at long last, to see 
something of the private life of 
Lithia! And through that, perhaps, 
gain some inkling of the moral life, 
the role in which God had cast the 
Lithians in the ancient drama of 
good and evil in the past and in the 
times to come. Until that was 
knpwn, the Lithians in their Eden 
were only spuriously good: all rea- 
son, all organic thinking machines, 
ULTIMAGs with tails and without 
souls. 

But there was the hard fact that 
hq had left behind a sick man. 
There was not much chance that 
Cleaver would awaken before 
morning; he had been given nearly 
15 mg. of sedative per kilogram of 



body weight. But if his burly frame 
should somehow throw it off, driven 
perhaps by some anaphylactic crisis 
impossible to rule out this early, he 
would need prompt attention. At 
the very least, he would want badly 
for the sound of a human voice on 
this planet which he hated and 
which had struck him down. 

Still, the danger to Cleaver was 
not great. He most certainly did not 
require a minute-by-minute vigil. 
There was, after all,, such a thing 
as an excess of devotion, a form of 
pride among the pious which the 
Church had long found peculiarly 
difficult to stifle. At its worst, it 
produced a St. Simon Stylites, who 
though undoubtedly acceptable to 
God had for centuries been very 
bad public relations for the Church. 
And had Cleaver really earned the 
kind of devotion Ruiz-Sanchez had 
been proposing, up to now, to ten- 
der him as a creature of God ? 
And with a whole planet at stake, 
a whole people — 

A lifetime of meditation over 
just such problems of conscience 
had made Ruiz-Sanchez, like anv 




n 



JAMES BLISH 



other gifted member of his Order, 
quick to find his way through all 
but the most complex ethical laby- 
rinths to a decision.' An unsym- 
pathetic observer might almost have 
called him "agile." 

"Thank you," he said, a little 
shakily. "I will share your house 
very gladly." 



Ill 

CLEAVER? Cleaver! Wake up, 
you big slob. Where the hell 
have you been?" 

Cleaver groaned and tried to 
turn over. At his first motion, the 
world began to rock gently, sick- 
eningly. His mouth was filled with 
burning pitch. 

"Cleaver, turn out. It's me — 
Agronski, Where's the Father? 
What's wrong? Why didn't we 
hear from you? Look out, you'll — " 

The warning came too late and 
Cleaver could not have understood 
it anyhow; he had been profoundly 
asleep and had no notion of his 
situation in space or time. At his 
convulsive twist away from the 
nagging voice, the hammock ro- 
tated on its hooks and dumped him. 

He struck the floor stunningly, 
.taking the main blow across his 
right shoulder, though he hardly 
felt it as yet. His feet, not yet part 
of him at all, still remained afloat 
far aloft, twisted in the hammock 
webbing. 

"Good lord!" There was a brief 
chain of footsteps, like chestnuts 
dropping on a roof, and then an 
overstated crash. "Cleaver, are you 
sick? Here, lie still a minute and let 
me get your feet free. Mike — Mike, 



can't you turn the gas up in this 
jug? Something's wrong back here." 

After a moment, yellow light be- 
gan to pour from the glistening 
walls. Cleaver dragged an arm 
across his eyes, but it did him no 
good; it tired too quickly. Agron- 
ski's mild face, plump and anxious, 
floated directly above him like a 
captive balloon. He could not see 
Michelis anywhere, and at the mo- 
ment he was just as glad. Agron- 
ski's presence was hard enough to 
understand. 

"How ... the hell . . ." he said. 
At the words, his lips split painfully 
at both corners. He realized for the 
first time that they had become 
gummed together, somehow, while 
he was asleep. He had no idea how 
long he had been out of the pic- 
ture. 

Agronski seemed to understand 
the aborted question. "We came in 
from the Lakes in the 'copter," he 
said. "We didn't like the silence 
down here and we figured that we'd 
better come in under our own 
power, instead of registering in on 
the regular jetliner and tipping the 
Lithians off — just in case there'd 
been any dirty work afloat." 

"Stop jawing him," Michelis 
said, appearing suddenly, magically 
in the doorway. "He's got a bug, 
that's obvious. I don't like to feel 
pleased about misery, but I'm glad 
it's that instead of the Lithians." 

The rangy, long-jawed chemist 
helped Agronski lift Cleaver to his 
feet. Tentatively, despite the pain, 
Cleaver got his mouth open again. 
Nothing came out but a hoarse 
croak. 

"Shut up," Michelis said, not un- 
kindly. "Let's get him back into 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



19 



the hammock. Where's the Father? 
He's the only one capable of dealing 
with sickness here." 

"I'll bet he's dead," Agronski 
burst out suddenly, his face glisten- 
ing with alarm. "He'd be here if he 
could. It must be catching, Mike." 

"I didn't bring my mitt," 
Michelis said drily. "Cleaver, lie 
still or I'll have to clobber you. 
Agronski, you seem to have dumped 
his water carafe; better go get him 
some more, he needs it. And see if 
the Father left anything in the lab 
that looks like medicine." 

Agronski went out, and, madden- 
ingly, so did Michelis — at least out 
of Cleaver's field of vision. Setting 
his every muscle against the pain, 
' Cleaver pulled his lips apart once 
more. 

"Mike." 

Instantly, Michelis was there. He 

had a pad of cotton between two 

fingers, wet with some solution, 

' with which he gently cleaned 

Cleaver's lips and chin. 

"Easy. Agronski's getting you a 
drink. We'll let you talk in a little 
while, Paul. Don't rush it." 

Cleaver relaxed a little. He could 
trust Michelis. Nevertheless, the 
vivid and absurd insult of having to 
be swabbed like a baby was more 
than he could bear; he felt tears 
of helpless rage swelling on either 
side of his nose. With two deft, non- 
committal swipes, Michelis removed 
them. 

Agronski came back, holding out 
one hand tentatively, palm up. "I 
found these," he said. "There's 
more in the lab, and the Father's 
pillpress is still out. So's his mortar 
and pestle, though they've been 
clean rd." 



"All right, let's have 'em" 
Michelis said. "Anything else?" 

"No. There's a syringe cooking 
in the sterilizer, if that means any- 
tiling." 

Michelis swore briefly and to the 
point. "It means that there's a per- 
tinent antitoxin in the shop some- 
place," he added. "But unless 
Ramon left notes, we'll not have a 
prayer of figuring out which one it 
is." 

As he spoke, he lifted Cleaver's 
head and tipped the pills into his 
mouth. The water which followed 
was cold at the first contact, but a 
split second later it was liquid fire. 
Cleaver choked, and at that precise 
moment Michelis pinched his nos- 
trils shut. The pills went down. 

"There's no sign of the Father?" 
Michelis said. 

"Not a one, Mike. Everything's 
in good order, and his gear's still 
here. Both jungle suits are in the 
locker." 

"Maybe he went visiting," 
Michelis said thoughtfully. "He 
must have gotten to know quite a 
few of the Lithians by now." 

"With a sick man on his hands? 
That's not like him, Mike. Not un- 
less there was some kind of emer- 
gency. Or maybe he went on a 
routine errand, expected to be back 
in just a few moments, and — " 

"And was set upon by trolls for 
forgetting to stamp his foot three 
times before crossing the bridge." 

"All right, laugh." 

"I'm not laughing, believe me." 

"Mike . , ." 

Michelis took a step back and 
looked down at Cleaver, his face 
floating as if detached through a 
haze of tears. He said: "All right, 



20 



JAMES BLISH 



Paul. Tell us what it is. We're lis- 
tening." 

But it was too late. The doubled 
barbiturate dose had * gotten to 
Cleaver first. He could only shake 
his head, and with the motion 
Michelis seemed to go reeling away 
into a whirlpool of fuzzy rainbows. 



CURTOUSLY, he did not quite 
go to sleep. He had had nearly 
a normal night's sleep, and he had 
started out the enormously long day 
a powerful and healthy man. The 
conversation of the two Earthmen 
and an obsessive consciousness of 
his need to speak to them before 
Ruiz-Sanchez returned helped to 
keep him, if not totally awake, at 
least not far below a state of light 
trance — and the presence in his sys- 
tem of 30 grains of acetylsalicylic 
acid had seriously raised his oxygen 
consumption, bringing with it not 
only dizziness but a precarious, emo- 
tionally untethered alertness. That 
the fuel which was being burned to 
maintain it was largely the protein 
substrate of his own cells he did 
not know, and it could not have 
alarmed him had he known it. 

The voices continued to reach 
him, and to convey a little mean- 
ing. With them were mixed fleeting, 
fragmentary dreams, so slightly re- 
moved from the surface of his wak- 
ing life as to seem peculiarly real, 
yet at the same time peculiarly 
pointless and depressing. In the 
semi-conscious intervals there came 
plans, a whole succession of them, 
all simple and grandiose at once, for 
taking command of the expedition, 
for communicating with the author- 
ities on Earth, for bringing forward 



secret papers proving that Lithia 
was uninhabitable, for digging a 
tunnel under Mexico to Peru, for 
detonating Lithia in one single 
mighty fusion of all its light-weight 
atoms into an atom of cleaverium, 
the element whose cardinal number 
was aleph-null. . . 

Agronski : Mike, come here and 
look at this; you read Lithian. 
There's a mark on the front door, 
on the message tablet. 

(Footsteps.) 

Michelis: It says "Sickness in- 
side." The strokes aren't casual or 
deft enough to be the work of the 
natives. Ideographs are hard to 
write rapidly. Ramon must have 
written it there. 

Agronski: I wish I knew where 
he went afterwards. 

(Footsteps. Door shutting, not 
loudly. Footsteps. Hassock creak- 
ing.) 

Agronski: Well, wed better be 
thinking about getting up a report. 
Unless this damn 20-hour day has 
me thrown completely off, our 
time's just about up. Are you still 
set on opening up the planet? 

Michelis: Yes. I've seen noth- 
ing to convince me that there's any- 
thing on Lithia that's dangerous to 
US. Except maybe Cleaver in there, 
and I'm not prepared to say that the 
Father would have left him if he 
were in any serious danger. And* I 
don't see how Earthmen could 
harm this society: it's too stable 
emotionally, economically, in every 
other way. 

(Danger, danger, said somebody 
in Cleaver's dream, it will explode. 
It's all a popish plot. Then he was 
marginally awake again and con- 
scious of how his mouth hurt.) 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 

Agronski: Why do you suppose 
these two jokers never called us 
after we went north? 

Michelis: I don't have any an- 
swer. I won't even guess until I talk 
to Ramon. Or until Paul's able to 
sit up and take notice. 

Agronski: I don't like it, Mike. 
It smells bad to me. This town's 
right at the heart of the communi- 
cations system of the planet. And 
yet — no messages, Cleaver sick, the 
Father not here . . . There's a hell 
of a lot we don't know about 
Lithia. 

Michelis: There's a hell of a 
lot we don't know about central 
Brazil. 

Aoronski : Nothing essential, 
Mike. What we know about the 
periphery gives us all the clues we 
need about the interior — even to 
those fish that eat people, the what 
are they, the pirhanas. That's not 
true on Lithia. We don't know 
Whether our peripheral clues about 
Lithia are germane or just inciden- 
tal. Something enormous could be 
hidden under the surface without 
our being able to detect it. 

Michelis : Agronski, stop sound- 
ing like a Sunday supplement. You 
underestimate your own intelli- 
gence. What kind of enormous se- 
cret could that be? That the Lithi- 
ans eat people? That they're cattle 
for unknown gods that live in the 
jungle? That they're actually mind- 
wrenching, soul- twisting, heart- 
stopping, bowel-moving intelli- 
gences in disguise? The moment 
you state any such proposition, 
you'll deflate it yourself. I wouldn't 
even need to take the trouble of 
examining it, or discussing how we 
might meet it if it were true. 



21 

Agronski: All right, all right. 
I'll reserve judgment for the time 
being, anyhow. If everything turns 
out to be all right here, with the 
Father and Cleaver I mean, I'll 
probably go along with you. I don't 
have any reason I could defend for 
voting against the planet, I admit. 

Michelis: Good for you. I'm 
sure Ramon is for opening it up. 
so that should make it unanimous. 
I can't see why Cleaver would ob- 
ject. 

(Cleaver was testifying before a 
packed court convened in the UN 
General Assembly chambers in New 
York, with one finger pointed dra- 
matically, but less in triumph than 
in sorrow, at Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez, 
S. J. At the sound of his name the 
dream collapsed and he realized 
that the room had grown a little 
lighter. Dawn — or the dripping, 
wool-grey travesty of it which pre- 
vailed on Lithia — was on its way. 
He wondered what he had just said 
to the court. It had been conclu- 
sive, damning, good enough to be 
used when he awoke ; but he could 
not remember a word of it. All that 
remained of it was a sensation, al- 
most the taste of the words, but 
with nothing of their substance.) 

Agronski: It's getting light. I 
suppose we'd better knock oft. 

Michelis: Did you stake down 
the 'copter? The winds here are 
higher than they are up north, I 
seem to remember. 

Agronski: Yes. And covered it 
with the tarp. Nothing left to do 
but sling our hammocks — 

Michelis: Shh. What's that? 

(Footsteps. Faint ones, but 
Cleaver knew them. He forced his 
eyes to open a little, but there was 



22 



JAMES BLISH 



nothing to see but the ceiling. Its 
even color, and its smooth, ever- 
changing slope into a dome of 
nothingness, drew him almost im- 
mediately upward into the mists of 
trance once more.) 

Acronski: Somebody's coming. 
It's the Father, Mike — look out 
here. He seems to be all right. Drag- 
ging his Feet a bit, but who wouldn't 
after being out helling all night? 

Mighelis: Maybe you'd better 
meet him at the door. It'd probably 
be better than our springing out at 
him after he gets inside. After all he 
doesn't expect us. I'll get to un- 
packing the hammocks. 

Agronski: Sure, Mike. 

(Footsteps, going away from 
Cleaver. A grating sound of stone 
on stone : the door-wheel being 
turned.) 

Agronski: Welcome home. Fa- 
ther! We got in just a little while 
ago and — what's wrong? Are you 
ill? Is there something that— Mike! 
Mike! 

(Somebody was running. Cleaver 
willed his neck muscles to lift his 
head, but they refused to obey. In- 
stead, the back of his head seemed 
to force itself deeper into the stiff 
pillow of the hammock. After a 
momentary and endless agony he 
cried out.) 

Cleaver: Mike! 

Agronski: Mike! 

(With a gasp, Cleaver lost the 
long battle at last. He was asleep.) 

IV 

AS THE DOOR of Chtexa's 
house closed behind him, Ruiz- 
Sanchez looked about the genily- 



glowing foyer with a feeling of al- 
most unbearable anticipation, al- 
though he could hardly have said 
what it was that he hoped to see. 
Actually, it looked exactly like his 
own quarters, which was all he 
could in justice have expected — 
all the furniture at "honV was 
Lithian except the lab equipment. 

"We have cut up several of the 
metal meteors from our museums, 
and hammered them as you sug- 
gested," Chtexa said behind him, 
while he struggled out of his rain- 
coat and boots. "They show very 
definite, very strong magentism, just 
as you predicted. We now have the 
whole planet alerted to pick up 
meteorites and send them to our 
electrical laboratory here, regardless 
of where found. The staff of the ob- 
servatory is attempting to predict 
possible falls. Unhappily, meteors 
are rare here. Our astronomers say 
that we have never had a 'shower' 
such as you describe as frequent on 
your native planet," 

"No; I should have thought of 
that," Ruiz-Sanchez said, following 
the Lithian into the front room. 
This, too, was quite ordinary, and 
empty except for the two of them. 
"In our system we have a sort of gi- 
ant grinding wheel — a whole ring 
of little planets, many thousands of 
them, distributed around an orbit 
where we had expected to find only 
one normal-sized world. Collisions 
between these bodies are incessant, 
and our plague of meteors is the re- 
sult. Here I suppose you have only 
the usual few strays from comets." 

"It is hard to understand how so 
unstable an arrangement could 
have come about," Chtexa said, sit- 
ting down and pointing out another 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



23 



hassock to his guest. "Have you an 
explanation?" 

"Not a good one," Ruiz-Sanchez 
said. "Some of us think that there 
was a respectable planet in that or- 
bit ages ago, which exploded some- 
how. A similar accident happened 
to a satellite in our system — at least 
one of our planets has a similar 
ring. Others think that at the 
formation of our solar system the 
raw materials of what might have 
been a planet just never succeeded 
in coalescing. Both ideas have 
many flaws, but each satisfies cer- 
tain objections to the other, so per- 
haps there is some truth in both." 

Chtexa's eyes filmed with the 
aiildly disquieting "inner blink" 
characteristic of Lithians at their 
most thoughtful. "There would 
seem to be no way to test either an- 
swer," he said at length. "By our 
logic, lack of such tests makes the 
priginal question meaningless." 

"That rule of logic has many ad- 
herents on Earth. My colleague Dr. 
Cleaver would certainly agree with 
it." Ruiz-Sanchez smiled suddenly. 
He had labored long and hard to 
master the Lithian language, and 
to have understood and recognized 
so completely abstract a point as 
the one just made by Chtexa was 
a bigger victory than any quantita- 
tive gains in vocabulary alone 
could ever have been. "But I can 
see that we are going to have dif- 
ficulties in collecting these meteor- 
ites. Have you offered incentives?" 

"Oh, certainly. Everyone under- 
stands the importance of the pro- 
gram. We are all eager to advance 
it." 

This was not quite what the 
priest had meant by his question. 



He searched his memory for some 
Lithian equivalent of "reward," 
but found nothing but the word he 
had already used, "incentive." He 
realized that he knew no word for 
"greed," either. Evidently offering 
Lithians a hundred dollars a me- 
teorite would simply baffle them. 
Instead he said, "Since the potential 
meteor-fall is so small, you're not 
likely to get anything like the sup- 
ply of metal that you need for a 
real study, no matter how thor- 
oughly you cooperate on it. You 
need a supplementary iron-finding 
program: some way of concentrat- 
ing the traces of the metal you have 
on the planet. Our smelting meth- 
ods would be useless to you, since 
you have no ore-beds. Hmm. What 
about the iron-fixing bacteria? 1 * 

"Are there such?" Chtexa said, 
cocking his head dubiously. 

"I don't know. Ask your bacteri- 
ologists. If you have any bacteria 
here that belong to the genus we 
call Leptothrix, one of them should 
be an iron-fixing species. In all the 
millions of years that this planet 
has had life on it, that mutation 
must have occurred, and probably 
very early." 

"But why have we never seen it 
before? We have done perhaps 
more research in bacteriology than 
we have in any other field." 

"Because," Ruiz-Sanchez said 
earnestly, "you didn't know what to 
look for, and because such a species 
would be as rare as iron itself. On 
Earth, because we have iron in 
abundance, our Leptothrix ockra- 
cea has found plenty of opportun- 
ity to grow. We find their fossil 
sheathes by uncountable millions in 
our great ore-beds. It used to be 



24 



JAMES BLISH 



thought, as a matter of fact, that 
the bacteria produced the ore-beds, 
but I've never believed that. While 
they do obtain their energy by oxi- 
dizing ferrous iron, such salts in 
solution change spontaneously to 
ferric salts if the oxidation-reduc- 
tion potential and the pH of the 
Water are right — and those are con- 
ditions that are affected by ordi- 
nary decay bacteria. On our planet 
the bacteria grew in the ore-beds 
because the iron was there, not the 
other way around. In your case, 
you just don't have the iron to make 
them numerous, but I'm sure there 
must be a few." 

"We will start a soil-sampling 
program at once," Chtexa said, his 
wattles flaring a subdued orchid. 
"Our antibiotics research centers 
screen soil samples by the thousands 
every month, in search of new mi- 
croflora of therapeutic importance. 
If these iron-fixing bacteria exist, 
we are certain to find them even- 
tually" 

"They must exist," Ruiz-Sanchez 
repeated. "Do you have a bacte- 
rium that is a sulfur-concentrating 
obligate anaerobe?" 

"Yes — yes, certainly!" 

"There you are," the Jesuit said, 
leaning back contentedly and clasp- 
ing his hands across one knee. "You 
have plenty of sulfur and so you 
have the bacterium. Please let me 
know when you find the iron-fixing 
species. I'd like to make a subcul- 
ture and take it home with me when 
I leave. There are two Earthmen 
whose noses I'd like to rub in it." 

The Lithian stiffened and thrust 
his head forward a little, as if baf- 
fled. Ruiz-Sanchez said hastily, 
"Pardon me. I was translating lit- 



erally an aggressive idiom of my 
own tongue. It was not meant to 
describe an actual plan of action." 

"I think I understand," Chtexa 
said. Ruiz-Sanchez wondered if he 
did. In the rich storehouse of the 
Lithian language he had yet to dis- 
cover any metaphors, either living 
or dead. Neither did the Lithians 
have any poetry or other creative 
arts. "You are of course welcome 
to any of the results of this pro- 
gram which you would honor us by 
accepting. One problem in die so- 
cial sciences which has long puz- 
zled us is just how one may ade- 
quately honor the innovator. When 
we consider how new ideas change 
our lives, we despair of giving in 
kind, and it is helpful when the in- 
novator himself has wishes which 
society can gratify." 

Ruiz-Sanchez was at first not 
quite sure he had understood the 
proposition. After he had gone over 
it once more in his mind, he was 
not sure that he could bring him- 
self to like it, although it was ad- 
mirable enough. From an Earth- 
man it would have sounded intol- 
erably pompous, but it was evident 
that Chtexa meant it. 

It was probably just as well that 
the Commission's report on Lithia 
was about to fall due. Ruiz-San- 
chez had begun to think that he 
could absorb only a little more of 
this kind of calm sanity. And all of 
it — a disquieting thought from 
somewhere near his heart reminded 
him — all of it derived from reason, 
none from precept, none from faith. 
The Lithians did not know God. 
They did things rightly, and 
thought righteously, because it was 
reasonable and efficient and natural 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



25 



to do and to think that way. They 
seemed to need nothing else. 

Or could it be that they thought 
and acted as they did because, not 
being born of man, and never in 
effect having left the Garden in 
which they lived, they did not 
share the terrible burden of origi- 
nal sin? The fact that Lithia had 
never once had a glacial epoch, 
that its climate had been left un- 
changed for 700 million years, was 
a geological fact that an alert the- 
ologist could scarcely afford to ig- 
nore. Could it be that, free from 
the burden, they were also free 
from the curse of Adam? 

And if they were — could men 
'bear to live among them? 



I HAVE SOME questions to ask 
you, Chtexa," the priest said 
after a moment. "You owe me no 
debt whatsoever, but we four 
Earthmen have a hard decision to 
make shortly. You know what it is. 
And I don't believe that we know 
enough yet about your planet to 
make that decision properly." 

"Then of course you must ask 
questions," Chtexa said immedi- 
ately. "I will answer, wherever I 
can." 

"Well then — do your people die? 
I see you have the word, but per- 
haps it isn't the same as our word 
in meaning." 

"It means to stop changing and 
to go back to existing," Chtexa 
said. "A machine exists, but only a 
living thing, like a tree, progresses 
along a line of changing equilibri- 
ums. When that progress stops, the 
entity is dead." 

"And that happens to you?" 



"It always happens. Even the 
great trees, like the Message Tree, 
die sooner or later. Is that not true 
on Earth?" 

"Yes," Ruiz-Sanchez said, "yes, 
it is. For reasons it would take me a 
long time to explain, it occurred to 
me that you might have escaped 
this evil." 

"It is not evil as we look at it," 
Chtexa said. "Lithia lives because 
of death. The death of leaves sup- 
plies our oil and gas. The death of 
some creatures is always necessary 
for the life of others. Bacteria must 
die, and viruses be prevented from 
living, if illness is to be cured. We 
ourselves must die simply to make 
room for others, at least until we 
can slow the rate at which our peo- 
ple arrive in the world — a thing 
impossible to us at present." 

"But desirable, in your eyes?" 

"Surely desirable," Chtexa said. 
"Our world is rich, but not inex- 
haustible. And other planets, you 
have taught us, have peoples of 
their own. Thus we cannot hope 
to spread to other planets when we 
have over-populated this one." 

"No real thing is ever inexhausti- 
ble," Ruiz-Sanchez said abruptly, 
frowning at the iridescent floor. 
"That we have found to be true 
over many thousands of years of 
our history." 

"But inexhaustible in what way?" 
said Chtexa. "I grant you that any 
small object, any stone, any drop of 
water, any bit of soil can be ex- 
plored without end. The amount 
of information which can be got- 
ten from it is quite literally infinite. 
But a given soil can be exhausted 
of nitrates. It is difficult, but with 
bad cultivation it can be done. Or 



26 



JAMES BLISH 



take iron, about which we have al- 
ready been talking. Our planet's 
supply of iron has limits which we 
already know, at least approximate- 
ly. To allow our economy to de- 
velop a demand for iron which ex- 
ceeds the total known supply of 
Lithia — and exceeds it beyond any 
possibility of supplementation by 
meteors or by import — would be 
folly. This is not a question of in- 
formation. It is a question of wheth- 
er or not the information can be 
used. If it cannot, then limitless in- 
formation is of no help." 

"You could certainly get along 
without more iron if you had to," 
Ruiz-Sanchez admitted. "Your 
wooden machinery is precise 
enough to satisfy any engineer. 
Most of them, I think, don't re- 
member that we used to have some- 
thing similar: I've a sample in my 
own home. It's a kind of timer 
called a cuckoo clock, nearly two 
of our centuries old, made entirely 
of wood, and still nearly 100% 
accurate. For that matter, long aft- 
er we began to build sea-going 
vessels of metal, we continued to 
use lignum vitae for ships* bear- 
ing" 

"Wood is an excellent material 
for most uses," Ghtexa agreed. "Its 
only deficiency, compared to ce- 
ramic materials or perhaps metal, 
is that it is variable. One must 
know it well to be able to assess its 
qualities from one tree to the next. 
And of course complicated parts 
can always be grown inside suit- 
able ceramic molds; the growth 
pressure inside the mold rises so 
high that the resulting part is very 
dense. Larger parts can be ground 
direct from the plank with soft 



sandstone and polished with slate. 
It is a gratifying material to work, 
we find." 

Ruiz-Sanchez felt, for some 
reason, a little ashamed. It was 
a magnified version of the same 
shame he had always felt at 
home toward that old Black 
Forest cuckoo clock. The electric 
clocks elsewhere in his villa back 
home all should have been capable 
of performing silently, accurately 
and in less spacer — but the con- 
siderations which had gone into the 
making of them had been commer- 
cial as well as purely technical. As 
a result, most of them operated with 
a thin, asthmatic whir, or groaned 
softly but dismally at irregular 
hours. All of them were "stream- 
lined," oversized and ugly. None of 
them kept good time, and several of 
them, since they were powered by 
constant-speed motors operating 
very simple gear-boxes, could not 
be adjusted, but had been sent out 
from the factory with built-in, in- 
eluctable inaccuracies. 

The wooden cuckoo clock, 
meanwhile, ticked evenly away. A 
quail emerged from one of two 
wooden doors every quarter of an 
hour and let you know about it, 
and on the hour first the quail came 
out, then the cuckoo, and there was 
a soft bell that rang just ahead of 
the cuckoo's call. It was accurate 
to a minute a week, all for the 
price of running up the three 
weights which drove it, each night 
before bedtime. 

The maker had been dead before 
Ruiz-Sanchez had been born. In 
contrast, the priest would probably 
buy and jettison at least a dozen 
cheap electric clocks in the course 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



27 



of one lifetime, as their makers had 
intended he should. 



IM SURE it is," he said humbly. 
"I have one more question, if 
I may. It is really part of the same 
question : I have asked if you 
die ; now I should like to ask 
how you are born. I see many 
adults on your streets and some- 
times in your houses — though 
I gather you yourself are alone — 
but never any children. Can you 
explain this to me? Or if the 
subject is not allowed to be dis- 
cussed . . ." 

"But why should it not be? There 
can never be any closed subjects," 
Chtexa said. "You know, of course 1 , 
that our mates have abdominal 
poaches where the eggs are carried. 
It was a lucky mutation for us, for 
there are a number of nest-robbing 
species on this planet." 
.- "Yes, we have a few animals 
with a somewhat similar arrange- 
ment on Earth, although they are 
live-bearers." 

"Our eggs are laid into these 
pouches once a year," Chtexa said. 
It is then that the women leave 
their own houses and seek out the 
male of their choice to fertilize the 
eggs. I am alone because, thus far, 
I am no woman's first choice this 
season. In contrast you may see 
men's houses at this time of year 
which shelter three or four women 
who favor him." 

"I see," Ruiz-Sanchez said care- 
fully. "And how is the choice de- 
termined? Is it by emotion, or by 
reason alone?" 

"The two are in the long run the 
same," Chtexa said. "Our ancestors 



did not leave our genetic needs to 
chance. Emotion with us no longer 
runs counter to our eugenic knowl- 
edge. It cannot, since it was itself 
modified to follow that knowledge 
by selective breeding for such be- 
haviour. 

"At the end of the season, then, 
comes Migration Day. At that time 
all the eggs are fertilized, and 
ready to hatch. On that day — you 
will not be here to see it, I am 
afraid, for your announced date of 
departure precedes it by a short 
time — our whole nation goes to the 
seashores. There, with the men to 
protect them from predators, the 
women wade out to swimming 
depth, and the children are born." 

"In the sea?" Ruiz-Sanchez said 
faintly. 

"Yes, in the sea. Then we all re- 
turn, and resume our other affairs 
until the next mating season." 

"But — but what happens to the 
children?" 

"Why, they take care of them- 
selves, if they can. Of course many 
perish, particularly to our voracious 
brother the great fish-lizard, whom 
for that reason we kill when we 
can. But a majority return when the 
time comes." 

"Return? Chtexa, I don't under- 
stand. Why don't they drown when 
they are born? And if they return, 
why have we never seen one?" 

"But you have," Chtexa said. 
"And you have heard them often. 
Here, come with me." He arose and 
led the way out into the foyer. Ruiz- 
Sanchez followed, his head whirl- 
ing with conjecture. 

Chtexa opened the door. The 
night, the priest saw with a sub- 
dued shock, was on the wane ; there 



28 



JAMES BLISH 



was the faintest of pearly glimmers 
on the cloudy sky to the east. The 
multifarious humming and singing 
of the jungle continued unabated. 
There was a high, hissing whistle, 
and the shadow of a pterodon 
drifted over the city toward the 
sea. From the mudflats came a 
hoarse barking. 

"There," Ghtexa said softly. 
"Did you hear it?" 

The stranded creature, or anoth- 
er of his kind — it was impossible to 
tell which — croaked protestingly 
again. 

"It is hard for them at first," 
Chtexa said. "But actually the 
worst of their dangers are over. 
They have come ashore." 

"Chtexa," Ruiz-Sanchez said. 
"Your children — the htngfisk?" 

"Yes," Chtexa said. "Those are 
our children." 



IN THE LAST analysis it was the 
incessant barking of the lungfish 
which caused Ruiz-Sanchez to faint 
when Agronski opened the door for 
him. The late hour, and the dual 
strains of Cleaver's illness and the 
subsequent discovery of Cleaver's 
direct lying, contributed. So did the 
increasing sense of guilt toward 
Cleaver which the priest had felt 
while walking home under the 
gradually-brightening, weeping sky; 
and so, of course, did the shock of 
discovering that Agronski and Mi- 
chelis had arrived sometime during 
the night while he had been neg- 
lecting his charge. 

But primarily it was the dimin- 
ishing, gasping clamor of the chil- 



dren of Lithia, battering at his ev- 
ery mental citadel, all the way from 
Chtexa's house to his own. 

The sudden fugue only lasted a 
few moments. He fought his way 
back to consciousness to find that 
Agronski and Michelis had propped 
him up on a stool in the lab and 
were trying to remove his macin- 
tosh without unbalancing him or 
awakening him — as difficult a prob- 
lem in topology as removing a 
man's vest without taking off his 
jacket. Wearily, the priest pulled 
his own arm out of a macintosh 
sleeve and looked up at Michelis. 

"Good morning, Mike. Please ex- 
cuse my bad manners." 

"Don't be an idiot," Michelis said 
evenly. "You don't have to talk 
now, anyhow. I've already spent 
much of tonight trying to keep 
Cleaver quiet until he's better. 
Don't put me through it again, 
Ramon, please." 

"I won't. I'm not ill; I'm just 
very tired and a little overwrought." 

"What's the matter with Cleav- 
er?" Agronski demanded. Michelis 
made as if to shoo him off. 

"No, no, Mike, I'm all right, I 
assure you. As for Paul, he got a 
dose of glucoside poisoning when a 
plant-spine stabbed him this after- 
noon. No, it's yesterday afternoon 
now. How has he been since, you 
arrived?" 

"He's sick," Michelis said. "Since 
you weren't here, we didn't know 
what to do. We settled for two of 
the pills you'd left out." 

"You did?" Ruiz-Sanchez slid his 
feet heavily to the floor and tried to 
stand up. "As you say, you couldn't 
have known what else to do, but I 
think I'd better look in on him — " 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



29 



"Sit down, please, Ramon." Mi- 
chelis spoke gently, but his tone 
showed that he meant the request 
to be honored. Obscurely glad to 
be forced to yield to the big man's 
well-meant implacability, the priest 
let himself be propped back on the 
stool. His boots fell off his feet to 
the floor. 

"Mike, who's the Father here?" 
he said tiredly. "Still, I'm sure 
you've done a good job. He's in no 
apparent danger?" 

"Well, he seems very sick. But 
he had energy enough to keep him- 
self half awake most of the night. 
He only passed out a short while 
ago." 

"Good. Let him stay out. Tomor- 
row we'll probably have to begin 
intravenous feeding, though. In 
this atmosphere one doesn't give a 
salicylate overdose without penal- 
ties." He sighed. "Can we put off 
further questions?" 

"If there's nothing else wrong 
here, of course we can." 

"Oh," Ruiz-Sanchez said, "there's 
a great deal wrong, I'm afraid." 

"I knew it," Agronski said. "I 
knew damn well there was. I to)d 
you so, Mike, didn't I?" 

"Is it urgent?" 

"No, Mike — there's no danger to 
us, of that I'm positive. It's nothing 
that won't keep until we've all had 
a rest. You two look as though you 
need one as badly as I." 

"We're tired," Michelis agreed. 

"But why didn't you ever call 
us?" Agronski burst in aggrievedly. 
"You had us scared half to death, 
Father. If there's really something 
wrong here, you should have—" 

"There's no immediate danger," 
Ruiz-Sanchez repeated patiently. 



"As for why we didn't call you, I 
don't understand that any more 
than you do. Up to tonight, I 
thought we were in regular contact 
with you both. That was Paul's job 
and he seemed to be carrying it out. 
I didn't discover that he wasn't do- 
ing it until after he became ill." 

"Then obviously we'll have to 
wait," Michelis said. "Let's hit the 
hammock, in God's name. Flying 
that 'copter through twenty-five 
hundred miles of fog-bank wasn't 
exactly restful, either; I'll be glad 
to turn in . . . But, Ramon — " 

"Yes, Mike?" 

"I have to say that I don't like 
this any better than Agronski does. 
Tomorrow we've got to clear it up, 
and get our Commission business 
done. We've only a day or so to 
make our decision before the ship 
comes and takes us off for gobd, 
and by that time we must know 
everything there is to know, and 
just what we're going to tell the 
Earth about it." 

"Yes," Ruiz-Sanchez said. "Just 
as you say, Mike — in God's name." 



THE PERUVIAN priest-biolo- 
gist awoke before the others : ac- 
tually, he had undergone far less 
purely physical strain than had the 
other three. It was just beginning 
to be cloudy dusk when he rolled 
out of his hammock and padded 
over to look at Cleaver. 

The physicist was in coma. His 
face was dirty grey and looked odd- 
ly shrunken. It was high time that 
the neglect and inadvertent abuse 
to which he had been subjected 
was rectified. Happily, his pulsr 



30 



JAMES BLISH 



and respiration were close to nor- 
mal now. 

Ruiz-Sanchez went quietly into 
the lab and made up a fructose IV 
feeding. At the same time he re- 
constituted a can of powdered egg 
into a sort of souffle^ setting it in a 
covered crucible to bake at the 
back of the little oven; that was for 
the rest of them, 

In the sleeping chamber, the 
priest set up his IV stand. Cleaver 
did not stir when the needle entered 
the big vein just above the inside of 
his elbow. Ruiz-Sanchez taped the 
tubing in place, checked the drip 
from the inverted bottle, and went 
back into the lab. 

There he sat, on the stool before 
the microscope, in a sort of suspen- 
sion of feeling while the new night 
drew on. He was still poisoned- 
tired, but at least now he could 
stay awake without constantly 
fighting himself. The slowly-rising 
souffle in the oven went plup-plup, 
plup-plup, and after a while a thin 
tendril of aroma suggested that it 
was beginning to brown on top, or 
at least thinking about it. 

Outside, it abruptly rained buck- 
ris Just as abruptly, it stopped. 

"Is that breakfast I smell, Ra- 
mon?" 

"Yes, Mike, in the oven. In a few 
minutes now." 

"Right." 

Micheiis went away again. On 
the back of the workbench, Ruiz- 
Sanchez saw the dark blue book 
with the gold stamping which he 
had brought with him all the way 
from Earth. Almost automatically 
he pulled it to him and opened it 
to page 573. It would at least give 
him something to think about with 



which he was not personally in- 
volved. 

He had quitted the text last with 
Anita, who "would yield to the 
lewdness of Honuphrius to appease 
the savagery of Sulla and the mer- 
cenariness of the twelve Sullivani, 
and (as Gilbert first suggested), to 
save the virginity of Felicia for Ma- 
gravius''— now hold a moment, 
how could Felicia be considered 
still a virgin at this point? Ah: 
". . . when converted by Michael 
alter the death of Gillia"; that cov- 
ered it, since Felicia had been guilty 
only of simple infidelities in the first 
place. ". . . but she fears that, by 
allowing his marital rights, she may 
cause reprehensible conduct be- 
tween Eugenius and Jeremias. Mi- 
chael, who has formerly debauched 
Anita, dispenses her from yielding 
to Honuphrius" — yes, that figured, 
since Michael also had had designs 
on Eugenius. "Anita is disturbed, 
but Michael comminates that he 
will reserve her case tomorrow for 
the ordinary GugHelmus even if she 
should practise a pious fraud dur- 
ing affriction which, from experi- 
ence, she knows {according to Wad- 
ding) to be leading to nullity." 

Well. This was all very well. It 
even seemed to be shaping up, for 
the first time. Still, Ruiz-Sanchez 
reflected, he would not like to have 
known the family hidden be*hind 
the conventional Latin aliases, or to 
have been the confessor to any one 
of them. Now then: 

"Fortissa, however, is encour- 
aged by Gregorius, Leo. Viteilius, 
and Macdugalius, reunitedly, to 
warn Anita by describing the 
strong chastisements of Honuphrius 
and the depravities {turpmimas) of 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



31 



Canicula, the deceased wife of 
Mauritius, with Sulla, the simoniac, 
who is abnegand and repents." 

Yes, it added up, when one tried 
to view it without outrage either 
at the persons involved — and there 
was every assurance that these were 
fictitious — or at the author, who 
for all his mighty intellect, the 
greatest perhaps of the preceding 
century among novelists, had still 
to be pitied as much as the mean- 
est victim of the Evil One. To view 
it, as it were, in a sort of grey twi- 
light of emotion, wherein every- 
thing, even the barnacle-like com- 
mentaries which the text had ac- 
cumulated, could be seen in the 
same light, 

"Is it done, Father?" 

."Smells like it, Agronski. Take 
it out and help yourself, why don't 
you?" 

"Thanks. Can I bring Cleaver — " 

"No, he's getting an IV." 

Unless his impression that he un- 
derstood the problem at last was 
once more going to turn out to be 
an illusion, he was now ready for 
the basic question, the stumper that 
had deeply disturbed both the Or- 
der and the Church for so many 
years now. He reread it carefully. 
It asked: 

"Has he hegemony and shall she 
submit?" 

To his astonishment, he saw as 
if for the first time that it was two 
questions, despite the omission of a 
comma between the two. And so it 
demanded two answers. Did Honu- 
phrius have hegemony? Yes, he did, 
for Michael, the only member of the 
whole complex who had been gifted 
from the beginning with the power 
of grace, had been egregiously com- 



promised. Therefore, Honuphrius 
regardless of whether his sins were 
all to be laid at his door or were 
real only in rumor could not be di- 
vested of his privileges by anyone. 
But should Anita submit? No, she 
should not. Michael had forfeited 
his right to dispense or to reserve 
her in any way, and so she could 
not be guided by the curate or by 
anyone else in the long run but 
her own conscience — which in view 
of the grave accusations against 
Honuphrius could lead her to no 
recourse but to deny him. As for 
Sulla's repentance, and Felicia's 
conversion, they meant nothing, 
since the defection of Michael had 
deprived both of them, and every- 
one else, of spiritual guidance. 

The answer, then, had been ob- 
vious all the time. It was: Yes, and 
No. 



HE CLOSED the book and 
looked up across the bench, 
feeling neither more nor less dazed 
than he had before, but with a 
small stirring of elation deep inside 
him which he could not suppress. 
As he looked out of the window 
into the dripping darkness, a fa- 
miliar, sculpturesque head and 
shoulders moved into the truncated 
tetrahedron of yellow light being 
cast out through the fine glass into 
the rain. 

It was Chtexa, moving away 
from the house. 

Suddenly Ruiz-Sanchez realized 
that nobody had bothered to rub 
away the sickness ideograms on the 
door-tablet. If Chtexa had come 
here on some errand, he had been 
turned back unnecessarily. The 



32 



JAMES BLISH 



priest leaned forward, snatched up 
an empty slide-box, and rapped 
with a corner of it against the in- 
side of the window, 

Chtexa turned and looked in 
through the steaming curtains of 
rain, his eyes completely filmed. 
Ruiz-Sanchez beckoned to him, and 
got stiffly off the stool to open the 
door. In the oven his share of 
breakfast dried slowly and began to 
burn. 

The rapping had summoned 
fortli Agrociski and Michelis as well. 
Chtexa looked down at the three 
of them with easy gravity, while 
drops of water ran like oil down 
the minute, prismatic scales of his 
supple skin. 

"I did not know that there was 
sickness here," the Lithian said. "I 
called because your brother Ruiz- 
Sanchez left my house this morning 
without the gift I had hoped to 
give him. I will leave if I am invad- 
ing your privacy in any way." 

"You are not," Ruiz-Sanchez as- 
sured him. "And the sickness is only 
a poisoning, not communicable and 
we think not likely to end badly for 
our colleague. These are my friends 
from the north, Agronski and Mi- 
chelis." 

"I am happy to see them. The 
message was not in vain, then?" 

"What message is this?" Michelis 
said, in his pure but hesitant Lith- 
ian. 

"I sent a message, as your col- 
league Ruiz-Sanchez asked me to 
do, last night. I was told by Xore- 
deshch Gton that you had already 
departed." 

"As we had," Michelis said. "Ra- 
mon, what's this? I thought you 
told U3 that sending messages was 



Paul's job. And you certainly im- 
plied that you didn't know how to 
do it after Paul took sick." 

"I didn't. I don't. I asked Chtexa 
to send it for me." 

Michelis looked up at the Lith- 
ian. "What did the message say?" 
he asked. 

"That you were to join them 
now, here, in Xoredcshch Sfath. 
And that your time on our world 
was almost up." 

"What does that mean?" Agron- 
ski said. He had been trying to fol- 
low the conversation, but he was not 
much of a linguist, and evidently 
the few words he had heen able to 
pick up had served only to inflame 
his ready fears. "Mike, translate, 
please." 

Michelis did so, briefly. Then he 
said : "Ramon, was that really all 
you had to say to us, especially aft- 
er what you had found out? We 
knew that departure time was com- 
ing, too, after all. We can keep a 
calendar as well as you, I hope." 

"I know that, Mike. But I had 
no idea what previous messages 
you'd received, if indeed you'd re- 
ceived any. For all I knew, Cleaver 
might have been in touch with you 
some other way, privately. I 
thought at first of a transmitter in 
his personal luggage, but later it 
occurred to me that he might have 
been sending dispatches over the 
regular jetliners. Or he might have 
told you that we were going to stay 
on beyond the official time. He 
might have told you I was dead. 
He might have told you anything. 
I had to be sure you'd arrive here 
regardless of what he had or had 
not said. 

"And when I got to the local 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



33 



message center, I had to revise my 
message again, because I found that 
I couldn't communicate with you 
directly, or send anything at all de- 
tailed. Everything that goes out 
from Xoredeshch Sfath by radio 
goes out through the Tree, and un- 
til you've seen it you haven't any 
idea 'what an Earthman is up 
against there in sending even the 
simplest message." 

"Is that true?" Michelis asked 
Chtexa. 

"True?" Chtexa repeated. "It is 
accurate, yes." 

"Well, then," Ruiz-Sanchez said, 
a little nettled, "you can see why, 
when Chtexa appeared providen- 
tially, recognized me, and offered to 
act as an intermediary, I had to 
give him only the gist of what I had 
to say. I couldn't hope to explain 
all the details to him, and I 
couldn't hope that any of those de- 
tails would get to you undistorted 
after passing through at least two 
Lithian intermediaries. All I could 
do was yell at the top of my voice 
for you two to get down here on the 
proper date — and hope that you 
heard me." 

"This is a time of trouble, which 
is like a sickness in the house," 
Chtexa said. "I must not remain. 
I will wish to be left alone when I 
am troubled, and I cannot ask that, 
if I now force my presence on 
others who are troubled. I will bring 
my gift at a better time." 



HE DUCKED OUT through the 
door, without any formal ges- 
ture of farewell, but nevertheless 
leaving behind an overwhelming 
impression of graciousness. Ruiz- 



Sanchez watched him go helpless- 
ly, and a little forlornly. The Lithi- 
ans always seemed to understand 
the essences of situations ; they were 
never, like even the most cocksure 
of Earthmen, beset by the least ap- 
parent doubt. 

And why should they be? They 
were backed — if Ruiz-Sanchez was 
right — by the second-best Authority 
in the universe, and backed direct- 
ly, without intermediaries or con- 
flicting interpretations. The very 
fact that they were never tormented 
by indecision identified them as 
creatures of that Authority. Only 
the children of God had been given 
free choice, and hence were often 
doubtful. 

Nevertheless, Ruiz-Sanchez 
would have delayed Chtexa's de- 
parture had he been able. In a 
short-term argument it is helpful 
to have pure reason on your side — 
even though such an ally could be 
depended upon to stab you to the 
heart if you depended upon him 
too long. 

"Let's go inside and thrash this 
thing out," Michelis said, shutting 
the door and turning back toward 
the front room. "It's a good thing 
we got some sleep, but we have so 
little time left now that it's going 
to be touch and go to have a for- 
mal decision ready when the ship 
comes." 

"We can't go ahead yet," Agron- 
ski objected, although, along with 
Ruiz-Sanchez, he followed Michelis 
obediently enough. "How can we 
do anything sensible without hav- 
ing heard what Cleaver has to say? 
Every man's voice counts on a job 
of this sort." 

"That's very true," Michelis said. 



34 



JAMES BUSH 



"And I don't like the present situ- 
ation any better than you do — I've 
already said that. But I don't see 
that wc have any choice. What do 
you think, Ramon?" 

"I'd like to hold out for wait- 
ing," Ruiz-Sanchez said frankly. 
"Anything I may say now is, to put 
it realistically, somewhat compro- 
mised with you two. And don't tell 
me that you have every confidence 
in my integrity, because we had ev- 
ery confidence in Cleaver's, too. 
Right now, trying to maintain both 
confidences just cancels out both.' : 

"You have a nasty way, Ramon, 
of saying aloud what everybody 
else is thinking," Michelis said, 
grinning bleakly. "What alterna- 
tives do you see, then?" 

"None," Ruiz-Sanchez admitted. 
"Time is against us, as you said. 
We'll just have to go ahead with- 
out Cleaver." 

"No, you won't." The voice, 
from the doorway to the sleeping 
chamber, was at once both uncer- 
tain and much harshencd by weak- 
ness. 

The others sprang up. Cleaver, 
clad only in his shorts, stood in the 
doorway, clinging to both sides of 
it. On one forearm Ruiz-Sanchez 
could see the marks where the ad- 
hesive tape which had held the IV 
tubing had been ripped off. 



VI 

PAUL, you must be crazy," Mi- 
chelis said, almost angrily. 
"Get back into your hammock be- 
fore you make things twice as bad 
for yourself. You're a sick man, 
can't you realize that?" 



"Not as sick as I look," Cleaver 
said, with a ghastly grin. "Actually 
I feel pretty fair. My mouth is al- 
most all cleared up and I don't 
think I've got any fever. And I'll 
be damned if this Commission is 
going to proceed an inch without 
me. It isn't empowered to do it, 
and I'll appeal any decision — any 
decision, I hope you guys are lis- 
tening — that it makes without me." 

The other two turned helplessly 
to Ruiz-Sanchez. 

"How about it, Ramon?" Mi- 
chelis said, frowning. "Is it safe for 
him to be up like this?" 

Ruiz-Sanchez was already at the 
physicist's side, peering into his 
mouth. The ulcers were indeed al- 
most gone, with granulation tissue 
forming nicely over the few that 
still remained. Cleaver's eyes were 
still slightly suffused, indicating 
that the toxemia was not complete- 
ly defeated, but except for these 
two signs the effect of the acciden- 
tal squill inoculation was no longer 
visible. It was true that Cleaver 
looked awful, but that was inevi- 
table in a man recently quite sick, 
and in one who had been burning 
his own body proteins for fuel to 
boot. 

"If he wants to kill himself, I 
guess he's got a right to do so, at 
least by indirection," Ruiz-Sanchez 
said. "Paul, the first thing you'll 
have to do is get off your feet, and 
get into a robe, and get a blanket 
around your legs. Then you'll have 
to eat something; I'll fix it for you. 
You've staged a wonderful recov- 
ery, but you're a sitting duck for a 
real infection if you abuse yourself 
during convalescence." 

"I'll compromise," Cleaver said 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



35 



immediately. "I don't want to be a 
hero, I just want to be heard. Give 
me a hand over to that hassock. I 
still don't walk very straight." 

It took the better part of half an 
hour to get Cleaver settled to Ruiz- 
Sanchez' satisfaction. The physicist 
seemed in a wry way to be enjoy- 
ing every minute of it. At last he 
had a mug of gchteht, the local 
equivalent of tea, in his hand, and 
Michehs said: 

'SA11 right, Paul, you've gone out 
of your way to put yourself on the 
spot. Evidently that's where you 
want to be. So let's have the an- 
swer: Why didn't you communi- 
cate with us?" 
* "I didn't want to." 
: "Now wait a minute," Agronski 
said. "Paul, don't break your neck 
to say the first damn thing that 
comes into your head. Your judg- 
ment may not be well yet, even if 
your talking apparatus is. Wasn't 
your silence just a matter of your 
being unable to work the local 
message system — the Tree or what- 
ever it is?" 

"No, it wasn't," Cleaver insisted. 
"Thanks, Agronski, but I don*t 
need to be shepherded down the 
safe and easy road, or have any 
alibis set up for me. I know exactly 
what I did that was ticklish, and I 
know that it's going to be impos- 
sible to set up consistent alibis for 
it now. My chances for keeping 
anything under my hat depended 
on my staying in complete control 
of everything I did. Naturally 
those chances went out the window 
when I got stuck by that damned 
pineapple. I realized that last night, 
when I fought like a demon to get 
through to you before the Father 



could get back, and found that I 
couldn't make it." 

"You seem to take it calmly 
enough now," Michelis observed. 

"Well, I'm feeling a little 
washed out. But I'm a realist. And 
I also know, Mike, that I had 
damned good reasons for what I 
did. I'm counting on the chance 
that you'll agree with me whole- 
heartedly when I tell you why I 
did it." 

"All right," Michelis said, "be- 
gin." 



CLEAVER sat back, folding his 
hands quietly in the lap of his 
robe. He was obviously still enjoy- 
ing the situation. He said: 

"First of all, I didn't call you 
because I didn't want to, as I said. 
I could have mastered the prob- 
lem of the Tree easily enough by 
doing what the Father did — that 
is, by getting a Snake to ferry my 
messages. Of course I don't speak 
Snake, but the Father does, so all 
I had to do was to take him into 
my confidence. Barring that, I 
could have mastered the Tree it- 
self. I already know all the techni- 
cal principles involved. Mike, you 
should see that Tree, it's the big- 
gest single junction transistor any- 
where in this galaxy, and I'll bet 
that it's the biggest one anywhere. 

"But I wanted a gap to spring 
up between our party and yours. I 
wanted both of you to be com- 
pletely in the dark about what was 
going on, down here on this conti- 
nent. I wanted you to imagine the 
worst, and blame it on the Snakes, 
too, if that could be managed. 
After you got here— if you did — I 



36 



JAMES BLISH 



JHF 




was going to be able to show you 
thai 1 hadn't sent any messages be- 
cause the Snakes wouldn't let me. 
I've got more plants to that effect 
squirrelled away around here than 
1*11 bother to list now; there'd be 
no point in it, since it's all come to 
nothing. But Prn sure it would 
have looked conclusive, regardless 
of anything the Father would have 
been able to offer to the contrary. 

"It was just a damned shame, 
from my point of view, that I had 
to run up against a pineapple at 
the last minute. It gave the Father 
a chance to find out something 
about what was up. I'll swear that 
if that hadn't happened, he 
wouldn't have smelt anything un- 
til you actually got here— and then 
it would have been too late." 

"I probably wouldn't have, that's 
true," Ruiz-Sanchez said, watching 
Cleaver steadily. "But your run- 
ning up against that 'pineapple' 
was no accident. If you'd been ob- 
serving Lithia as you were sent here 
to do, instead of spending all your 
time building up a fictitious Lithia 



for purposes of your own, you'd 
have known enough about the 
planet to have been more careful 
about 'pineapples.' You'd also have 
spoken at least as much Lithian as 
Agronski by this time." 

"That," Cleaver said, "is prob- 
ably true, and again it doesn't 
make any difference to me. I ob- 
served the one fact about Lithia 
that overrides all other facts, and 
that is going to turn out to be suffi- 
cient. Unlike you, Father, I have 
no respect for petty niceties in ex- 
treme situations, and I'm not the 
kind of man who thinks anyone 
learns anything from analysis after 
the fact." 

"Let's not get to bickering," Mi- 
chelis said. "You've told us" your 
story without any visible decora- 
tion, and it's evident that you have 
a reason for confessing. You expect 
us to excuse you, or at least not to 
blame you too heavily, when you 
tell us what that reason is. Let's 
hear it." 

"It's this," Cleaver said, and for 
the first time he seemed to become 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



37 



a little more animated. He leaned 
forward, the glowing gaslight 
bringing the bones of his face into 
sharp contrast with the sagging hol- 
lows of his cheeks, and pointed a 
not-quite-steady finger at Michelis. 

"Do you know, Mike, what it is 
that we're sitting on here? Do you 
know, just to begin with, how 
much rutile there is here?" 

"Of course I know. If we de- 
cide to vote for opening the planet 
up, our titanium problem will be 
Solved for a century, maybe even 
longer. I'm saying as much in my 
persona] report. But we figured 
that that would be true even be- 
fore we first landed here, as soon as 
we got accurate figures on the mass 
of the planet." 

"And what about the pegma- 
tite?" Cleaver demanded softly. 

"What about it?" Michelis said, 
looking puzzled. "I suppose it's 
abundant; I really didn't bother to 
look. Titanium's important to us, 
but I don't quite see why lithium 
should be; the days when the metal 
was used as a rocket fuel are fifty 
years behind us." 

"And yet the stuff's still worth 
about $20,000 an English tonne 
back home, Mike, and that's ex- 
actly the same price it was drawing 
in the 1960's, allowing for currency 
changes since then. Doesn't that 
mean anything to you?" 

"Fm more interested in what it 
means to you," Michelis said. 
"None of us can make a nickel out 
of this trip, even if we find the 
planet solid platinum insider — 
which is hardly likely. And if price 
is the only consideration, surely the 
fact that lithium is common here 
will break the market for it? 



What's it good for, after all, on a 
large scale?" 

"It's good for bombs," Cleaver 
said. "Fusion bombs. And, of 
course, controlled fusion power, if 
we ever lick that problem." 



RUIZ-SANCHEZ suddenly felt 
sick and tired all over again. 
It was exactly what he had feared 
had been on Cleaver's mind, and 
he had not wanted to find himself 
right. 

"Cleaver," he said, "I've 
changed my mind. I would have 
caught you out, even if you had 
never blundered against your 'pine- 
apple.' That same day you men- 
tioned to me that you were looking 
for pegmatite when you had your 
accident, and that you thought 
Lithia might be a good place for 
tritium production on a large scale. 
Evidently you thought that I 
wouldn't know what you were talk- 
ing about. If you hadn't hit the 
'pineapple,' you would have given 
yourself away to me before now by 
talk like that; your estimate of me 
was based on as little observation 
as is your estimate of Lithia." 

"It's easy," Cleaver observed in- 
dulgently, "to say 'I knew it all 
the time.* * 

"Of course it's easy, when the 
other man is helping you," Ruiz- 
Sanchez said. "But I think that 
your view of Lithia as a cornucopia 
of potential hydrogen bombs is only 
the beginning of what you have in 
mind. I don't believe that it's even 
your real objective. What you 
would like most is to see Lithia re- 
moved from the universe as far as 
you're concerned. You hate the 



38 



JAMES BLISH 



place, it's injured you, you'd like to 
think that it really doesn't exist. 
Hence the emphasis, on Lithia as a 
source of tritium, to the exclusion 
of every other fact about the plan- 
et; for if that emphasis wins out, 
Lithia will be placed under secur- 
ity seal. Isn't that right?" 

"Of course it's right, except for 
the phony mind-reading," Cleaver 
said contemptuously. "When even 
a priest can see it, it's got to be ob- 
vious. Mike, this is the most tre- 
mendous opportunity that man's 
ever had. This planet is made to 
order to be converted, root and 
branch, into a thermonuclear lab- 
oratory and production center. It 
lias indefinitely large supplies of 
the most important raw materials. 
What's even more important, it 
has no nuclear knowledge of its 
own for us to worry about. All the 
clue materials, the radioactive ele- 
ments and so on which you need 
to work out real knowledge of the 
atom, we'll have to import; the 
Snakes don't know a thing about 
them. Furthermore, the instru- 
ments involved, the counters and 
particle-accelerators and so on, all 
depend on materials like iron that 
the Snakes don't have, and on prin- 
ciples they don't know, like mag- 
netism to begin with, and quantum 
theory. We'll be able to stock our 
plant here with an immense reser- 
voir of cheap labor which doesn't 
know and — if we take proper pre- 
cautions — never will have a prayer 
of learning enough to snitch classi- 
fied techniques. 

"All we need to do is to turn in 
a triple-E Unfavorable on the 
planet to shut off for a whole cen- 
tury any use of Lithia as a way sta- 



tion or any other kind of general 
base. At the same time, we can re- 
port separately to the UN Review 
Committee exactly what we do 
have in Lithia: a triple-A arsenal 
for the whole of Earth, for the 
whole commonwealth of planets 
we control!" 

"Against whom?" Ruiz-Sanchez 
said. 

"What do you mean?" 

"Against whom are you stocking 
this arsenal? Why do we need a 
whole planet devoted to making 
tritium bombs?" 

"The UN itself can use weap- 
ons," Cleaver said drily. "The time 
isn't very far gone since there were 
still a few restive nations on Earth, 
and it could come around again. 
Don't forget also that thermonu- 
clear weapons only last a few years 
— they can't be stockpiled indefi- 
nitely, like fission bombs. The half- 
life of tritium is very short. I sup- 
pose you wouldn't know anything 
about th~at. But take my word for 
it, the UN's police would be glad 
to know that they could have ac- 
cess to a virtually inexhaustible 
stock of tritium bombs, and to hell 
with the shelf-life problem! 

"Besides, if you've thought about 
it at all, you know as well as I do 
that this endless consolidation of 
peaceful planets can't go on for- 
ever. Sooner or later — well, what 
happens if the next planet we 
touch on is a place like Earth? If 
it is, its inhabitants may fight, and 
fight like a planetful of madmen, 
to stay out of our frame of influ- 
ence. Or what happens if the next 
planet we hit is an outpost for a 
whole federation, maybe bigger 
than ours? When that day comes — 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



39 



and it will, it's in the cards — we'll 
be damned glad if we're able to 
plaster the enemy from pole to pole 
with fusion bombs, and clean up 
the matter with as little loss of life 
as possible." 

* "On our side," Ruiz-Sanchez 
added. 

"Is there any other side?" 

"By golly, it makes sense to me," 
Agronski said. "Mike, what do you 
think?" 

"I'm not sure yet," Michelis 
said. "Paul, I still don't under- 
stand why you thought it neces- 
sary to go through all the cloak- 
and-dagger maneuvers. You tell 
your story fairly enough now, and 
it has its merits, but you also ad- 
mit you were going to trick the 
three of us into going along with 
you, if you could. Why? Couldn't 
you trust the force of your argu- 
ment alone?" 

"No," Cleaver said bluntly. "I've 
never been on a Commission like 
this before, where there was no 
single, definite chairman, where 
there was deliberately an even 
number of members so that a split 
opinion couldn't be settled if it 
occurred — and where the voice of 
a man whose head is full of peck- 
snifHan, irrelevant moral distinc- 
tions and two-thousand-year-old 
metaphysics carries exactly the 
same weight as the voice of a scien- 
tist." 

"That's mighty loaded lan- 
guage," Michelis said. 

"I know it. If it comes to that, 
I'll say here or anywhere that I 
think the Father is a hell of a fine 
biologist, and that that makes him 
a scientist like the rest of us — inso- 
far as biology's a science. 



"But I remember once visting 
the labs at Notre Dame, where they 
have a complete little world of 
germ-free animals and plants and 
have pulled I don't know how 
many physiological miracles out of 
the hat. I wondered then how one 
goes about being as good a scien- 
tist as that, and a Churchman at 
the same time. I wondered in 
which compartment in their brains 
they filed their religion, and in 
which their science. I'm still won- 
dering. 

"I didn't propose to take 
chances on the compartments get- 
ting interconnected on Lithia. I 
had every intention of cutting the 
Father down to a point where his 
voice would be nearly ignored by 
the rest of you. That's why I un- 
dertook the cloak-and-dagger stuff. 
Maybe it was stupid of me — I sup- 
pose that it takes training to be a 
successful agent-provocateur and 
that I should have realized it. But 
I'm not sorrv I tried. I'm only sorry 
1 failed." 



VII 

THERE WAS a short, painful 
silence. 

"Is that it, then?" Michelis said. 

"That's it, Mike. Oh — one more 
thing. My vote, if anybody is in 
doubt about it, is to keep the plan- 
et closed. Take it from there." 

"Ramon," Michelis said, "do 
you want to speak next? You're 
certainly entitled to it — the air's a 
mite murky at the moment." 

"No, Mike; let's hear from you." 

"I'm not ready to speak yet 
either, unless the majority wants 



40 



JAMES BUSH 



me to. Agronski, how about you?" 

"Sure," Agronski .said. "Speak- 
ing as a geologist, and also as an 
ordinary slob that doesn't follow 
ratified reasoning very well, I'm on 
Cleaver's side. I don't see anything 
either for or against the planet on 
any other grounds but Cleaver's. 
It's a fair planet as planets go, very 
quiet, not very rich in anything 
else we need, not subject to any 
kind of trouble that I've been able 
to detect, It'd make a good way 
station, but so would lots of other 
worlds hereabouts. It'd also make a 
good arsenal, the way Cleaver de- 
fined the term. In every other cate- 
gory it's as dull as ditch-water, and 
it's got plenty of that. The only 
other thing it can have to offer is 
titanium, which isn't quite as scarce 
back home these days as Mike 
seems to think, and gem-stones, 
particularly the semi-precious ones, 
which we can make at home with- 
out traveling 40 light-years. I'd say, 
either set up a way station here and 
forget about the planet otherwise, 
or else handle the place as Cleaver 
suggested." 

"But which?" Ruiz-Sanchez 
asked. 

"Well, which is more important, 
rather? Aren't way stations a dime 
a dozen? Planets that can be used 
as thermonuclear labs, on the 
other hand, arc rare — Lithia is the 
first one that can be used that way, 
at least in my experience. Why use 
a planet for a routine purpose if it 
can be used for a unique purpose? 
Why not apply Occam's Razor — 
the law of parsimony? It works in 
all other scientific problems. It's my 
bet that it's the best tool to use on 
this one." 



"You vote to close the planet, 
then," Michelis said. 

"Sure. That's what I was saying, 
wasn't h?" 

"I wanted to be certain," Mi- 
chelis said. "Ramon, I guess it's 
up to us. Shall I speak first?" 

"Of course, Mike." 

"Then," Michelis said evenly, 
and without changing in the slight- 
est his accustomed tone of grave 
impartiality, 'Til say that I think 
both of these gentlemen are fools, 
and calamitous fools at that be- 
cause they're supposed to be scien- 
tists. Paul, your maneuvers to set 
up a phony situation are perfectly 
beneath contempt, and I shan't 
mention them again. I shan't even 
bother to record them, so you 
needn't feel that you have to mend 
any fences as far as I'm concerned. 
I'm looking solely at the purpose 
those maneuvers were supposed to 
serve, just as you asked me to do." 

Cleaver's obvious self-satisfac- 
tion began to dim a little around 
the edges. He said, "Go ahead," 
and wound the blanket a little bit 
tighter around his legs. 



LITHIA is not even the beginning 
' of an arsenal," Michelis said. 
"Every piece of evidence you of- 
fered to prove that it might be is 
either a half-truth or the purest 
trash. Cheap labor, for instance: 
with what will you pay the Lith- 
ians? They have no money, and 
they can't be rewarded with goods. 
They have everything they need, 
and they like the way they're living 
right now— God knows they're not 
even slightly jealous of the achieve- 
ments we think make Earth great." 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



41 



He looked around the gently 
rounded room, shining softly in 
the gaslight. "I don't seem to see 
anyplace in here where a vacuum- 
cleaner would find much use. How 
will you pay the Lithians to work 
*m your thermonuclear plants?'* 

"With knowledge," Cleaver said 
gruffly. "There's a lot they'd like 
to know." 

"But what knowledge? The 
things they'd like to know are spe- 
cifically the things you can't tell 
them if they're to be valuable to 
you as a labor force. Are you going 
to teach them quantum theory? 
You can't; that would be danger- 
ous. Are you going to teach them 
electrodynamics? Again, that 
would enable them to learn other 
things you think dangerous. Are 
you going to teach them how to 
get titanium from ore, or how to 
accumulate enough iron to enable 
them to leave their present Stone 
Age? Of course you aren't. As a 
matter of fact, we haven't a thing 
to offer them in that sense. They 
just won't work for us under those 
terms." 

"Offer them other terms," 
Cleaver said shortly. "If necessary, 
tell them what they*re going to do, 
like it or lump it. It'd be easy 
enough to introduce a money sys- 
tem on this planet: you give a 
Snake a piece of paper that says 
it's worth a dollar, and if he asks 
you just what makes it worth a 
dollar — well, the answer is, We say 
it is." 

"And we put a machine-pistol 
to his belly to emphasize the 
point," Ruiz-Sanchez interjected. 

"Do we make machine-pistols for 



nothing? I never figured out what 
else they were good for. Either you 
point them at someone or you 
throw them away." 

"Item: slavery," Michelis said. 
"That disposes, I think, of the ar- 
gument for cheap labor. I won't 
vote for slavery. Ramon won't. 
Agronski?" 

"No," Agronski said uneasily. 
"But it's a minor point." 

"The hell it is. It's the reason 
why we're here. We're supposed to 
think of the welfare of the Lithians 
as well as of ourselves — otherwise 
this Commission procedure would 
be a waste of time, of thought, of 
money. If we want cheap labor, we 
can enslave any planet." 

Agronski was silent. 

"Speak up," Michelis said ston- 
ily. "Is that true, or isn't it?" 

Agronski said, "I guess it is.'* 

"Cleaver?" 

"Slavery's a swearword," Cleav- 
er said sullenly. "You're deliber- 
ately clouding the issue." 

"Say that again." 

"Oh, hell. All right, Mike, T 
know you wouldn't But you're 
wrong." 

"I'll admit that the instant that 
you can demonstrate it to me," Mi- 
chelis said. He got up abruptly 
from his hassock, walked over to 
the sloping windowsill, and sat 
down again, looking out into the 
rain-stippled darkness. He seemed 
to be more deeply troubled than 
Ruiz-Sanchez had ever before 
thought possible for him. 



T N THE meantime," he re- 
■*- sumed, "I'll go on with my 
own demonstration. Now what's to 



42 



JAMES BLISH 



be said about this theory of auto- 
matic security that you've pro- 
pounded, Paul? You think that the 
Lithians can't learn the techniques 
they would need to be able to un- 
derstand secret information and 
pass it on, and so they won't have 
to be screened. There again, you're 
wrong, as you'd have known if 
you'd bothered to study the Lith- 
ians even perfunctorily. The Lith- 
ians are highly intelligent, and 
they already have many of the 
clues they need. I've given them a 
hand toward pinning down magnet- 
ism, and they absorbed the mate- 
rial like magic and put it to work 
with enormous ingenuity." 

"So did I," Ruiz-Sanchez said. 
"And I've suggested to them a 
technique for accumulating iron 
that should prove to be pretty pow- 
erful. I had only to suggest it, and 
they were already halfway down to 
the bottom of it and traveling fast. 
They can make the most of the 
smallest of clues." 

"If I were the UN I'd regard 
both actions as the plainest kind of 
treason," Cleaver said harshly. 
"Since that may be exactly the way 
Earth will regard them, I think 
it'd be just as well if you told the 
folks at home that the Snakes 
found out both items by them- 
selves." 

"I don't plan to do any falsify- 
ing of the report," Michelis said, 
"but thanks anyhow — I appreciate 
the intent behind what you say, if 
not the ethics. I'm not through, 
however. So far as the actual, prac- 
tical objective that you want to 
achieve is concerned, Paul, I think 
it's just as useless as it is impossible. 
The fact that you have here a 



planet that's especially rich in lith- 
ium doesn't mean that you're sit- 
ting on a bonanza, no matter what 
price per tonne the metal is com- 
manding back home. The fact of 
the matter is that you can't ship 
lithium home. 

"Its density is so low that you 
couldn't send away more than a 
tonne of it per shipload; by the 
time you got it to Earth the ship- 
ping charges on it would more 
than outweigh the price you'd get 
for it on arrival. As you ought to 
know, there's lots of lithium on 
Earth's own moon, too, and it 
isn't economical to fly it back to 
Earth even over that short dis- 
tance. No more would it be eco- 
nomical to ship from Earth to 
Lithia all the heavy equipment 
that would be needed to make use 
of lithium here. By the time you 
got your cyclotron and the rest of 
your needs to Lithia, you'd have 
cost the UN so much money that 
no amount of locally available peg- 
matite could compensate for it." 

"Just extracting the metal would 
cost a fair sum," Agronski said, 
frowning slightly. "Lithium would 
burn like gasoline in this atmos- 
phere." 

Michelis looked from Agronski to 
Cleaver and back again. "Of 
course it would," he said. "The 
whole plan's just a chimfira. It 
seems to me, also, that we have a 
lot to learn from the Lithians, as 
well as they from us. Their social 
system works like the most perfect 
of our physical mechanisms, and it 
does so without any apparent re- 
pression of the individual. It's a 
thoroughly liberal society, that nev- 
ertheless never even begins to tip 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



43 



over toward the other side, toward 
the kind of Ghandiism that keeps 
a people tied, to the momma-and- 
poppa-farm and the roving-brigand 
economy. It's in balance, and not 
precarious balance, either, but per- 
- feet chemical equilibrium. 

"The notion of using Lithia as 
a tritium bomb plant is easily the 
strangest anachronism Fvc ever en- 
countered — it's as crude as pro- 
posing to equip a spaceship with 
canvas sails. Right here on Lithia 
is the real secret, the secret that's 
going to make bombs of all kinds, 
and all the rest of the anti-social 
armamentarium, as useless, un- 
necessary, obsolete as the Iron 
Boot! 

"And on top of all that — no, 
please, I'm not quite finished, Paul 
— on top of all that, the Lithians 
are centuries ahead of us in some 
purely technical matters, just as 
we're ahead of them in others. You 
should see what they can do with 
ceramics, with semi-conductors, 
with static electricity, with mixed 
disciplines like histochemistry, im- 
munochemistry, biophysics, tera- 
tology, electrogenetics, limnology, 
and half a hundred more. If you'd 
been looking, you would have seen. 

"We have much more to do, it 
seems to me, than just vote to open 
the planet. That's a passive move. 
We have to realize that being able 
to use Lithia is only the beginning. 
The fact of the matter is that we 
actively need Lithia. We should say 
so in our recommendation." 



TTE UNFOLDED himself from 
J- J- the windowsill and stood up, 
looking down on them all, but most 



especially at Ruiz-Sanchez, The 
priest smiled at him, but as much 
in* anguish as in admiration, and 
then had to look back at his shoes. 

"Well, Agronski?" Cleaver said, 
spitting the words out like bullets 
on which he had been clenching his 
teeth during an amputation without 
anesthetics. "What do you say now? 
Do you like the pretty picture?" 

"Sure, I like it," Agronski said, 
slowly but forthrightly. It was a 
virtue in him, as well as it was often 
a source of exasperation, that he al- 
ways said exactly what he was 
thinking, the moment he was asked 
to do so. "Mike makes sense; I 
wouldn't expect him not to, if you 
see what I mean. Also he's got an- 
other advantage: he told us what 
he thought without trying first to 
trick us into his way of thinking." 

"Oh, don't be a thumphead," 
Cleaver exclaimed. "Are we scien- 
tists or Boy Rangers? Any rational 
man up against a majority of do- 
gooders would have taken the same 
precautions that I did." 

"Maybe," Agronski said. "I don't 
know. They still smell to me like a 
confession of weakness somewhere 
in the argument. I don't like to be 
finessed. And I don't much like to 
be called a thumphead, either. But 
before you call me any more names, 
I'm going to say that I think you're 
more right than Mike is. I don't 
like your methods, but your aim 
seems sensible to me. Mike's shot 
some of your major arguments full 
of holes, that I'll admit; but as far 
as I'm concerned, you're still lead- 
ing — by a nose." 

He paused, breathing heavily and 
glaring at the physicist Then he 
said: 



44 



JAMES BLISH 



"But don't push, Paul. I don't 
like being pushed." 

Michelis remained standing for 
a moment longer. Then he 
shrugged, walked back to his has- 
sock, and sat down, locking his 
hands between his knees. 

"I did my best, Ramon," he said. 
"But so far it looks like a draw. See 
what you can do." 

Ruiz-Sanchez took a deep breath. 
What he was about to do would 
without any doubt hurt him for the 
rest of his life, regardless of the 
goodness of his reasons, or the way 
time had of turning any knife. The 
decision had already cost him many 
hours of concentrated, agonized 
doubt. But he believed that it had 
to be done. 

"I disagree with all of you," he 
said. "I believe that Lithia should 
be reported triple-E Unfavorable, 
as Cleaver does. But I think it 
should also be given a special classi- 
fication: X-l .", 

"X-l — but that's a quarantine 
label," Michelis said. "As a matter 
of fact — " 

"Yes, Mite. I vote to seal Lithia 
off from all contact with the human 
race. Not only now, or for the next 
century, but forever." 



vni 

THE WORDS did not produce 
the consternation that he had 
been dreading — or, perhaps, had 
been hoping for, somewhere in the 
back of his mind. Evidently they 
were all too tired for that. They 
took his announcement with a kind 
of stunned emptiness, as though it 
were so far out of the expected or- 



der of events as to be quite mean- 
ingless. It was hard to say whether 
Cleaver or Michelis had been hit 
the harder. All that could be seen 
for certain was that Agronski re- 
covered first, and was now ostenta- 
tiously cleaning his ears, as if he 
were ready to listen again when 
Ruiz-Sanchez changed his mind. 

"Well," Cleaver began. And then 
again, shaking his head amazedly, 
like an old man, "Well . . ." 

"Tell us why, Ramon," Michelis 
said, clenching and unclenching his 
fists. His voice was quite flat, but 
Ruiz-Sanchez thought he could feel 
the pain under it. 

"Of course. But I warn you, Fm 
going to be very roundabout. What 
I have to say seems to me to be of 
the utmost importance, and I don't 
want to see it rejected out of hand 
as just the product of my peculiar 
training and prejudices — interest- 
ing perhaps as a study in aberra- 
tion, but not germane to the prob- 
lem. The evidence for my view of 
Lithia is overwhelming. It over- 
whelmed me quite against my na- 
tural hopes and inclinations. I want 
you to hear that evidence." 

"He wants us also to under- 
stand," Cleaver said, recovering a 
little of his natural impatience, 
"That his reasons are religious and 
won't hold water if he states them 
right out.'* 

"Hush," Michelis said. "Listen." 

"Thank you, Mike. All right, here 
we go. This planet is what I think 
is called in English a 'set-up.' Let 
me describe it for you briefly as I 
see it, or rather as I've come to see 
it. 

"Lithia is a paradise. It resembles 
most closely the Earth in its pre- 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



45 



Adamic period just before the com- 
ing of the great glaciers. The re- 
semblance ends just there, because 
on Lithia the glaciers never carne, 
and life continued to be spent in 
the paradise, as it was not allowed 
to do on Earth. We find a com- 
pletely mixed forest, with plants 
which fall from one end of the 
creative spectrum to the other liv- 
ing side by side in perfect amity. 
To a great extent that's also true 
of the animals. The lion doesn't lie 
down with the lamb here because 
Lithia has neither animal, but as an 
analogy the phrase is apt. Parasit- 
ism occurs far less often on Lithia 
than it does on Earth, and there are 
very few carnivores of any sort. Al- 
most all the surviving land animals 
eat plants only, and by a neat ar- 
rangement which is typically Lithi- 
an, the plants are admirably set up 
to attack animals rather than each 
other. 

"It's an unusual ecology, and one 
of the strangest things about it is 
its rationality, its extreme, almost 
single-minded insistence on one-for- 
one relationships. In one respect it 
looks almost as though someone had 
arranged the whole planet to dem- 
onstrate the theory of sets. 

"In this paradise we have a dom- 
inant creature, the Lithian, the man 
of Lithia. This creature is rational. 
It conforms as if naturally and with- 
out constraint or guidance to the 
highest ethical code we have 
evolved on Earth. It needs no laws 
to enforce this code ; somehow, ev- 
eryone obeys it as a matter of 
course, although it has never even 
been written down. There are no 
criminals, no deviants, no aberra- 
tions of any kind. The people are 



not standardized — our own very 
bad and partial answer to the ethi- 
cal dilemma — but instead are high- 
ly individual. Yet somehow no anti- 
social act of any kind is ever com- 
mitted. 

"Mike, let me stop here and ask: 
What does this suggest to you?" 

"Why, just what I've said be- 
fore that it suggested," Michelis 
said. "An enormously superior so- 
cial science, evidently founded in a 
precise psychological science." 

"Very well, I'll go on. I felt as 
you did at first. Then I came to ask 
myself; How does it happen that 
the Lithians not only have no devi- 
ants—think of that, no deviants — 
but it just happens, by the utter- 
most of all coincidences, that the 
code by which they live so perfect- 
ly is point for point the code we 
strive to obey. Consider, please, the 
imponderables involved in such a 
coincidence. Even on Earth we 
never have found a society which 
evolved independently exactly the 
same precepts as the Christian pre- 
cepts. Oh, there were some dupli- 
cations, enough to encourage the 
Twentieth Century's partiality to- 
ward synthetic religions like Thc- 
osophism and Hollywood Vedanta, 
but no ethical system on Earth that 
grew up independently of Christi- 
anity agreed with it point for point. 

"And yet here, 40 light-years 
from Earth, what do we find? A 
Christian people, lacking nothing 
but the specific proper names and 
the symbolic appurtenances of 
Christianty. I don't know how you 
three react to this, but I found it 
extraordinary and indeed com- 
pletely impossible — mathematically 
impossible- — under any assumption 



46 

but one. I'll get to that assumption 
in a moment." 

"You can't get there too soon for 
me," Cleaver said morosely. "How 
a man can stand 40 Tight-years from 
home in deep space and talk such 
parochial nonsense is beyond my 
comprehension." 

"Parochial?" Ruiz-Sanchez said, 
more angrily than he had intended. 
"Do you mean that what we think 
true on Earth is automatically made 
suspect just by the fact of its re- 
moval into deep space? I beg to re- 
mind you, Cleaver, that quantum 
mechanics seems to hold good on 
Litlu'a, and that you see nothing 
parochial about behaving as if it 
did. If I believe in Peru that God 
created the universe, I see nothing 
parochial about believing it on 
Lithia. 

"A while back I thought I had 
been provided an escape hatch, in- 
cidentally. Chtexa told me thai the 
Lithians would like to modify the 
growth of their population, and he 
implied that they would welcome 
some form of birth control. But, as 
it turned out, birth control in the 
sense that my Church interdicts it 
is impossible to Lithia, and what 
Chtexa had in mind was obviously 
some form of conception control, a 
proposition to which my Church 
has already given its qualified as- 
sent. So there I was, even on this 
small point forced again to realize 
that we had found on Lithia the 
most colossal rebuke to our aspira- 
tions that we had ever encountered : 
A people that seemed to live with 
ease the kind of life which we asso- 
ciate with saints alone. 

"Bear in mind that a Muslim 



JAMES BLISH 

who visited Lithia would find no 
such thing. Neither would a Taoist. 
Neither would a Zoroastrian, pre- 
suming that there were still such, 
or a classical Greek. But for the four 
of us — and I include you, Cleaver, 
for despite your tricks and your ag- 
nosticism you still subscribe to the 
Christian ethical doctrines enough 
to be put on the defensive when 
you flout them — what we have here 
on Lithia is a coincidence which 
beggars description. It is more than 
an astronomical coincidence — that 
tired old phrase for numbers that 
don't seem very large any more — 
it is a transfinite coincidence. It 
would take Cantor himself to do 
justice to the odds against it." 

"Wait a minute," Agronski said. 
"Holy smoke. Mike, I don't know 
any anthropology, I'm lost here. I 
was with the Father up to the part 
about the mixed forest, but I don't 
have any standards to judge the 
rest. Is it so, what he says?" 

"Yes, I think it's so," Michelis 
said slowly. "But there could be 
differences of opinion as to what it 
means, if anything. Ramon, go on." 



T'VE SCARCELY begun. I'm still 
*- describing the planet, and more 
particularly the Lithians. The 
Lithians take a lot of explaining; 
what I've said about them thus far 
states only the most obvious fact. 
I could go on to point out many 
more equally obvious facts: that 
they have no nations and no na- 
tional rivalries (and if you'll look 
at the map of Lithia you'll see ev- 
ery reason why they should have 
developed such rivalries) , that they 
have emotions and passions but are 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



never moved by them to irrational 
acts, that they have only one lan- 
guage, that they exist in complete 
harmony with everything, large and 
small, that they find in their world. 
In short, they're a people that 
couldn't exist, and yet does. 

"Mike, Fd go beyond your view 
to say that the Lithians are the 
most perfect example of how hu- 
man beings ought to behave that 
we're ever likely to find, for the 
very simple reason that they be- 
have now the way human beings 
once did before a series of things 
happened of which we have record. 
I'd go even farther beyond it, far 
enough to say that as an example 
the Lithians are useless to us, be- 
cause until the coming of the King- 
dom of God no substantial number 
of human beings will ever be able 
to imitate Lithian conduct. Human 
beings seem to have built-in imper- 
fections that the Lithians lack, so 
that after thousands of years of 
trying we are farther away than 
ever from our original emblems of 
conduct, while the Lithians have 
never departed from theirs. 

"And don't allow yourselves to 
forget for an instant that these em- 
blems of conduct are the same on 
both planets. That couldn't ever 
have happened, either. But it did. 

"I'm now going to describe an- 
other interesting fact about Lithian 
civilization. It is a fact, whatever 
you may think of its merits as evi- 
dence. It is this: that your Lithian 
is a creature of logic. Unlike Earth- 
men of all stripes, he has no gods, no 
myths, no legends. He has no be- 
lief in the supernatural, or, as we're 
calling it in our barbarous jargon 
these days, the 'paranormal.' He 



has no traditions. He has no tabus. 
He has no faiths, blind or other- 
wise. He is as rational as a machine. 
Indeed, the only way in which we 
can distinguish the Lithian from an 
organic computer is his possession 
and use of a moral code. 

"And that, I beg you to observe, 
is completely irrational. It is based 
upon a set of axioms, of proposi- 
tions which were 'given' from the 
beginning — though your Lithian 
will not allow that there was ever 
any Giver. The Lithian, for instance 
Chtexa, believes in the sanctity of 
the individual. Why? Not by rea- 
son, surely, for there is no way to 
reason to that proposition. It is an 
axiom. Chtexa believes in juridical 
defense, in the equality of all be- 
fore the code. Why? It's possible 
to behave reasonably from the 
proposition but not to reason one's 
way to it. 

"If you assume that the respon- 
sibility to the code varies with age, 
or with the nature of one's work, or 
with what family you happen to be- 
long to, logical behavior can follow 
from one of those assumptions, but 
there again one can't arrive at the 
principle by reason alone. One be- 
gins with belief: 'I think that all 
people ought to be equal before the 
law.' That is a statement of faith, 
nothing more. Yet Lithian civiliza- 
tion is so set up as to suggest that 
one can arrive at such basic axioms 
of Christianity, and of Western 
civilization on Earth as a whole, 
by reason alone, in the plain face 
of the fact that one cannot." 

"Those are axioms," Cleaver 
growled. "You don't arrive at them 
by faith, either. You don't arrive 
at them at all. They're self-evident." 



48 



JAMES BLISH 



"Like the axiom that only one 
parallel can be drawn to a given 
line? Go on, Cleaver, you're a phys- 
icist; kick a stone for me and tell 
me it's self-evident that the thing 
is solid." 

"It's peculiar," Michelis said in 
a low voice, "that Lithian culture 
should be so axiom-ridden without 
the Lithians being aware of it. I 
hadn't formulated it in quite this 
way before, Ramon, but I've been 
disturbed myself at the bottomless 
assumptions that lie behind Lithian 
reasoning. Look at what they've 
done in solid-state physics, for in- 
stance. It's a structure of the purest 
kind of reason, and yet when you 
get down to its fundamental as- 
sumptions you discover the axiom 
that matter is real. How can they 
know that? How did logic lead 
them to it? If I say that the atom 
is just a hole-inside-a-hole-through- 
a-hole, where can reason inter- 
vene?" 

"But it works," Cleaver said. 

"So does our solid-state physics 
— but we work on opposite axioms," 
Michelis said. "That's not the issue. 
I don't myself see how this im- 
mense structure of reason which the 
Lithians have evolved can stand for 
an instant. It doesn't seem to rest 
on anything." 

"I'm going to tell you," Ruiz- 
Sanchez said. "You won't believe 
me, but I'm going to tell you any- 
how, because I have to. It stands 
because it's being propped up. 
That's the simple answer and the 
whole answer. But first I want to 
add one more fact about the Lithi- 
ans. 

"They have complete physical re- 
capitulation outside the body." 



"What does that mean?" Agron- 
ski said. 

"Do you know how a human 
child grows inside its mother's 
body? It is a one-celled animal to 
begin with, and then a simple 
metazoan resembling the fresh- 
water hydra or the simplest jelly- 
fish. Then, very rapidly, it goes 
through many other animal forms, 
including the fish, the amphibian, 
the reptile, the lower mammal, and 
finally becomes enough like a man 
to be born. This process biologists 
call recapitulation. 

"They assume that the embryo 
is passing through the various stages 
of evolution which brought life 
from the single-celled organism to 
man, on a contracted time scale. 
There is a point, for instance, in 
the development of the fetus when 
h has gills. It has a tail almost to 
the very end of its time in the 
womb, and sometimes still has it 
when it is born. Its circulatory sys- 
tem at one point is reptilian, and 
if it fails to pass successfully through 
that stage, it is born as a 'blue baby* 
with patent ductus arteriosus, the 
tetralogy of Fallot, or a similar 
heart defect. And so on." 

"I see," Agronski said. "I've en- 
countered the idea before, of 
course, but I didn't recognize the 
term." 

"Well, the Lithians, too," go 
through this series of metamorpho- 
ses as they grow up, but they go 
through it outside the bodies of 
their mothers. This whole planet is 
one huge womb. The Lithian fe- 
male lays her eggs in her abdom- 
inal pouch, and then goes to the 
sea to give birth to her children. 
What she bears is not a reptile, but 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



49 



a fish. The fish lives in the sea a 
while, and then develops rudimen- 
tary lungs and comes ashore. 
Stranded by the tides on the flats, 
the lungfish develops rudimentary 
legs and squirms in the mud, be- 
coming an amphibian and learning 
to endure the rigors of living away 
from the sea. Gradually their limbs 
become stronger, and better set on 
their bodies, and they become the 
big froglike things we sometimes 
see leaping in the moonlight, try- 
ing to get away from the crocodiles. 
"Many of them do get away. 
They carry their habit of leaping 
with them into the jungle, and 
there they change once again to be- 
come the small, kangaroo-like rep- 
tiles we've all seen, at one time or 
another, fleeing from us among the 
trees. Eventually, they emerge, fully 
grown, from the jungles and take 
their places among the folk of the 
cities as young Lithians, ready for 
education. But they have already 
learned every trick of every en- 
vironment that their world has to 
offer except those of their own 
civilization." 



"JV/TICHELIS locked his hands to- 
S om er again and looked up 
at Ruiz-Sanchez. "But that's a dis- 
covery beyond price!" he said with 
quiet excitement. "Ramon, that 
alone is worth our trip to Lithia. 
I can't imagine why it would lead 
you to ask that the planet be closed! 
Surely your Church can't object to 
it in any way — after all, your theo- 
rists did accept recapitulation in the 
human embryo, and also the geo- 
logical record that showed the same 
process in action over longer spans 



of time." 

"Not," Ruiz-Sanchez said, "in 
the way that you think we did. The 
Church accepted the facts, as it al- 
ways accepts facts. But — as you 
yourself suggested not ten minutes 
ago — facts have a way of pointing 
in several different directions at 
once. The Church is as hostile to 
the doctrine of evolution — particu- 
larly in respect to man — as it ever 
was, and with good reason." 

"Or with obdurate stupidity," 
Cleaver said. 

"All right, Paul, look at it very 
simply with the original premises 
of the Bible in mind. If we assume 
just for the sake of argument that 
God created man, did He create 
him perfect? I should suppose that 
He did. Is a man perfect without a 
navel? I don't know, but I'd be 
inclined to say that he isn't. Yet 
the first man — Adam, again for the 
sake of argument — wasn't born of 
woman, and so didn't really need 
to have a navel. Nevertheless he 
would have been imperfect without 
it, and I'll bet that he had one.*' 

"What does that prove?" 

"That the geological record, and 
recapitulation too, do not prove the 
doctrine of evolution. Given my 
initial axiom, which is that God 
created everything from scratch, it's 
perfectly logical that He should 
have given Adam a navel, Earth a 
geological record, and the embryo 
the process of recapitulation. None 
of these indicate a real past; all are 
there because the creations involved 
would have been imperfect other- 
wise." 

"Wow," Cleaver said. "And I 
used to think that Milne relativity 
was abstruse." 



50 



JAMES BLISH 



"Oh, any coherent system of 
thought becomes abstruse if it's ex- 
amined long enough. I don't see 
why my belief in a God you can't 
accept is any more rarefied than 
Mike's vision of the atom as a hole- 
inside-a-hole-through-a-hole. I ex- 
pect that in the long run, when we 
get right down to the fundamental 
particles of the universe, we'll find 
that there's nothing there at all — 
just no-things moving no-place 
through no-time. On the day that 
that happens, I'll have God and 
you will not — otherwise there'll be 
no difference between us. 

"But in the meantime, what we 
have here on Lithia is very clear 
indeed. We have — and now I'm 
prepared to be blunt — a planet and 
a people propped up by the Ulti- 
mate Enemy. It is a gigantic trap 
prepared for all of us. We can do 
nothing with it but reject it, noth- 
ing but say to it, Retro me, Sath- 
anas. If we compromise with it in 
any way, we are damned." 

"Why, Father?" Michelis said 
quietly. 

"Look at the premises, Mike. 
One: Reason is always a sufficient 
guide. Two: The self-evident is al- 
ways the real. Three: Good works 
are an end in themselves. Four: 
Faith is irrelevant to right action. 
Five: Right action can exist with- 
out love. Six: Peace need not pass 
understanding. Seven: Ethics can 
eadil without evil al ternatives. 
Eight: Morals can exist without 
■ nee. Nine — but do I really 
need to go on? We have heard all 
these propositions before, and we 
know Who proposes them. 

"And we have seen these demon- 
strations before — the demonstra- 



tion, for instance, in the rocks 
which was supposed to show 
how the horse evolved from 
Eohippu3, but which somehow 
never managed to convince the 
whole of mankind. Then the 
discovery of intra-uterine recapitu- 
lation, which was to have clinched 
the case for the so-called de- 
scent of man — and yet, somehow, 
failed again to produce general 
agreement. These were both very 
subtle arguments, but the Church 
is not easily swayed; it is founded 
on a rock. 

"Now we have, on Lithia, a new 
demonstration, both the subtlest 
and at the same time the crudest 
of all. It will sway many people who 
could have been swayed in no other 
way, and who lack the intelligence 
or the background to understand 
that it is a rigged demonstration. It 
seems to show us evolution in action 
on an inarguable scale. It is sup- 
posed to setde the question once 
and for all, to rule God out of the 
picture, to snap the chains that have 
held Peter's rock together all these 
many centuries. Henceforth there 
is to be no more question; there is 
to be no more God, but only phe- 
nomenology — and, of course, be- 
hind the scenes, within the hole 
that's inside the hole that's through 
a hole, the Great Nothing itself, the 
thing that has never learned any 
word but No: It has many other 
names, but we know the name that 
counts. That's left us. 

"Paul, Mike, AgronsJd, I have 
nothing more to say than this : We 
are all of us standing on the brink 
of Hell. By the grace of God, we 
may still turn back. We must turn 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



51 



back — for I at least think that this 
is our last chance." 



IX 

T^HE VOTE was cast, and that 
■*- was that. The Commission was 
tied, and the question would be 
thrown open again in higher eche- 
lons on Earth, which would mean 
tying Lithia up for years to come. 
The planet was now, in effect, on 
the Index. 

The ship arrived the next day. 
The crew was not much surprised 
to find that the two opposing fac- 
tions of the Commission were hard- 
ly speaking to each other. It often 
happened that way. 

The four Commission members 
cleaned up the house the Lithians 
had given them in almost complete 
silence. Ruiz-Sanchez packed die 
blue book with the gold stamping 
without being able to look at it 
except out of the corner of his eye, 
but even obliquely he could not 
help seeing its title: 

FINNEGANS WAKE 

James Joyce 

He felt as though he himself had 
been collated, bound and stamped, 
a tortured human text for future 
generations of Jesuits to explicate 
and argue. 

He had rendered the verdict he 
had found it necessary for him to 
render. But he knew that it was 
not a final verdict, even for him- 
self, and certainly not for the UN, 
let alone the Church. Instead, the 
verdict itself would be the knotty 
question for members of his Order 



yet unborn: 

Did Father Ruiz-Sanchez cor- 
rectly interpret the Divine case, and 
did his ruling, if so, follow from it? 

"Let's go. Father. It'll be take- 
off time in a few minutes." 

"All ready, Mike." 

It was only a short journey to the 
clearing, where the mighty spindle 
of the ship stood ready to weave 
its way back through the geodesies 
of deep space to the sun that shone 
on Peru. The baggage went on 
board smoothly and without fuss. 
So did the specimens, the films, the 
special reports, the recordings, 
the sample cases, the vivariums, 
the aquariums, the type-cul- 
tures, the pressed plants, the tubes 
of soil, the chunks of ore, the Lithi- 
an manuscripts in their atmosphere 
of neon; everything was lifted dec- 
orously by the cranes and swung 
inside. 

Agronski went up the cleats to 
the airlock first, with Michelis fol- 
lowing him. Cleaver was stowing 
some last-minute bit of gear, some- 
thing that seemed to require deli- 
cate, almost reverent care before 
the cranes could be allowed to take 
it in their indifferent grip. Ruiz- 
Sanchez took advantage of the 
slight delay to look around once 
more at the near margins of the 
forest. 

At once, he saw Chtexa. The 
Lithian was standing at the en- 
trance to the path the Earthmen 
themselves had taken away from 
the city to reach the ship. He was 
carrying something. 

Cleaver swore under his breath 
and undid something he had just 

(Continved on page 116) 



Alexander Pope wrote, "Atoms or systems into ruin hurled, 
And now a bubble burst, and now a world." He died in 
1872 — but poets are sometimes the best prophets! 



The Trouble with 




By Philip K. Dick 



Illustrated by Joseph R. Eberle 



TVTATHAN HULL left his sur- 
-*-^B face car and crossed the pave- 
ment on foot, sniffing the chill 
morning air. Robot work-trucks 
were starting to rumble past. A gut- 
ter slot sucked night debris greedi- 
ly. A vanishing headline caught his 
eye momentarily: 

PACIFIC TUBE COMPLETED; 
ASIAN LAND MASS LINKED 

He passed on away from the 
corner, hands in his pockets, look- 
ing for Farley's house. 

Past the usual Worldcraft Store 
with its conspicuous motto: "Own 
Your Own World!" Down a short 
grass-lined walk and onto a slop- 
ing tilt-front porch. Up three imi- 
tation marble stairs. Then Hull 
flicked his hand before the code 
beam and the door melted away. 



The house was still. Hull found 
the ascent tube to the second floor 
and peered up. No sound. Warm 
air blew around him, tinged with 
faint smells— -smells of food and 
people and familiar objects. Had 
they gone? No. It was only the third 
day; they'd be around someplace, 
maybe up on the roof terrace. 

He ascended to the second floor 
and found it also vacant. But dis- 
tant sounds drifted to his ears. A 
tinkle of laughter, a man's voice. 
A woman's — perhaps Julia's. He 
hoped so — hoped she were still con- 
scious. 

He tried a door at random, steel- 
ing himself. Sometimes during the 
third and fourth days the Contest 
Parties got a little rough. The door 
melted, but the room was empty. 
Couches, empty glasses, ashtrays, 
exhausted stimulant tubes, articles 



53 



54 



PHILIP K. DICK 



of clothing strewn everywhere — 

Abruptly Julia Marlow and Max 
Farley appeared, arm in arm, fol- 
lowed by several others, pushing 
forward in a group, excited and 
red-cheeked, eyes bright, almost 
feverish. They entered the room and 
halted. 

"Nat!" Julia broke away from 
Farley and came breathlessly up to 
him. "Is it that late already?" 

"Third day," Hull said. "Hello, 
Max." 

"Hello, Hull. Sit down and make 
yourself comfortable. Can I get 
you something?" 

"Nothing. Can't stay. Julia — " 

Farley waved a robant over, 
sweeping two drinks from its chest 
tray. "Here, Hull. You can stay 
long enough for one drink." 

Bart Longstreet and a slender 
blonde appeared through a door. 
"Hull! You here? So soon?" 

"Third day. Fm picking Julia 
up. If she still wants to leave." 

"Don't take her away," the slim 
blonde protested. She wore a side- 
glance robe, invisible out of the 
corner of the eye, but an opaque 
fountain when looked at directly. 
"They're judging right now. In the 
lounge. Stick around. The fun's 
just beginning." She winked at him 
with heavy blue-lidded eyes, glazed 
and sleep-drugged. 

Hull turned to Julia. "If you 
want to stay . . .'* 

Julia put her hand nervously on 
his arm, standing close to him. Not 
losing her fixed smile she grated in 
his ear: "Nat, for God's sake, get 
me out of here. I can't stand it. 
Please!" 

Hull caught her intense appeal, 
her eyes bright with desperation. 



He could feel the mute urgency 
quivering through her body, tense 
and strained. "Okay, Julia. We'll 
take off. Maybe get some breakfast. 
When did you last eat?" 

"Two days. I think. I don't 
know." Her voice trembled. 
"They're judging right now. God, 
Nat. You should have seen — " 

"Can't go until the judging's 
over," Farley rumbled. "I think 
they're almost through. You didn't 
enter, Hull? No entry for you?" 

"No entry." 

"Surely you're an owner—" 

"Nope. Sorry." Hull's voice was 
faintly ironic. "No world of my 
own, Max. Can't see it." 

"You're missing something." Max 
beamed dopily, rocking back on his 
heels. "Quite a time — best Contest 
Party for weeks. And the real fun 
begins after the judging. All this is 
just preliminary." 

"I know." Hull moved Julia 
rapidly toward the descent tube. 
"We'll see you. So long, Bart. Give 
me a call when you're out of here." 

"Hold it!" Bart murmured sud- 
denly, cocking his head. "The judg- 
ing's over. The winner is going to 
be announced." He pushed toward 
the lounge, the others excitedly be- 
hind. "You coming, Hull? Julia?" 

Hull glanced at the girl. "All 
right." They followed reluctantly. 
"For a minute, maybe." 



A WALL of sound struck them. 
The lounge was a seething 
chaos of milling men and women. 
"I won!" Lora Becker shouted 
in ecstasy. People pushed and 
shoved around her, toward the 
Contest table, grabbing up their 



THE TROUBLE WITH BUBBLES 



55 



entries. Their voices grew in 
volume, an ominous rumble of dis- 
cordant sound. Robants calmly 
moved furniture and fixtures back 
out of the way, clearing the floor 
rapidly. An unleashed frenzy of 
mounting hysteria was beginning to 
fill the big room. 

"I knew it!" Julia's fingers 
tightened around Hull's arm. 
"Come on. Let's get out before they 
start." 

"Start?" 

"Listen to them!" Julia's eyes 
flickered with fear. "Come on, Nat! 
I've had enough. I can't stand any 
more of this." 

"I told you before you came." 

"You did, didn't you?" Julia 
smiled briefly, grabbing her coat 
from a robant. She fastened the 
coat rapidly around her breasts and 
shoulders. "1 admit it. You told 
me. Now let's go, for God's sake." 
She turned, making her way 
through the surging mass of people 
toward the descent tube. "Let's get 
out of here. We'll have breakfast. 
You were right. These things aren't 
for us." 

Lora Becker, plump and middle- 
aged, was making her way up onto 
the stand beside the judges, her 
entry clasped in her arms. Hull 
paused a moment, watching the 
immense woman struggle up, her 
chemically corrected features gray 
and sagging in the unwinking over- 
head lights. The third day — a lot 
of old-timers were beginning to 
show the effects, even through their 
artificial masks. 

Lora reached the stand. "Look!" 
she shouted, holding up her entry. 
The Worldcraft bubble glittered, 
catching the light. In spite of him- 



self Hull had to admire the thing. 
If the actual world inside was as 
good as the exterior . . . 

Lora turned on the bubble. It 
glowed, winking into brilliance. 
The roomful of people became si- 
lent, gazing up at the winning en- 
try, the world that had taken the , 
prize over all other comers. 

Lora Becker's entry was master- 
ful. Even Hull had to admit it. She 
increased die magnification, bring- 
ing the microscopic central planet 
into focus. A munnur of admira- 
tion swept the room. 

Again Lora increased the magni- 
fication. The central planet grew, 
showing a pale green ocean lapping 
faintly at a low shoreline. A city 
carne into view, towers and broad 
streets, fine ribbons of gold and 
steel. Above, twin suns beamed 
down, warming the city. Myriads 
of inhabitants swarmed about their 
activities. 

"Wonderful," Bart Longstrect 
said softly, coming over beside Hull. 
"But the old hag has been at it 
sixty years. No wonder she won. 
She's entered every Contest I can 
remember." 

"It's nice," Julia admitted in a 
clipped voice. 

"You don't care for it?" Long- 
street asked. 

"I don't care for any of this!" 

"She wants to go," Hull ex- 
plained, moving toward the descent 
tube. "We'll see you later, Bart." 

Bart Longstreet nodded. "I 
know what you mean. In many 
ways I agree. You mind if I — " 

"Watch!" Lora Becker shouted, 
her face flushed. She increased the 
magnification to maximum focus, 
showing details of the minute cttv. 



56 



PHILIP K. DICK 



"See them? See?" 

The inhabitants of the city came 
into sharp view. They hurried 
about their business, endless thou- 
sands of them. In cars and on foot. 
Across spidery spans between build- 
ings, breath takingly beautiful. 

Lora held the Worldcraft bubble 
up high, breathing rapidly. She 
gazed around the room, her eyes 
bright and inflamed, glittering un- 
healthily. The murmurings rose, 
sweeping up in excitement. Numer- 
ous Worldcraft bubbles came up, 
chest-high, gripped in eager, im- 
passioned hands. 

Lora's mouth opened. Saliva 
dribbled down the creases of her 
sagging face. Her lips twitched. She 
raised her bubble up over her head, 
her doughy chest swelling convul- 
sively. Suddenly her face jerked, 
features twisting wildly. Her thick 
body swayed grotesquely — and from 
her hands the Worldcraft bubble 
flew, crashing to the stand in front 
of her. 

The bubble smashed, bursting 
into a thousand pieces. Metal and 
glass, plastic parts, gears, struts, 
tubes, the vital machinery of the 
bubble, splattered in all directions. 

Pandemonium broke loose. All 
around the room other owners were 
smashing their worlds, breaking 
them and crushing them, stamping 
on them, grinding the delicate con- 
trol mechanisms underfoot. Men 
and women in a frenzy of abandon, 
released by Lora Becker's signal, 
quivering in an orgy of Dionysian 
lust. Crushing and breaking their 
carefully constructed worlds, one 
after another. 

"God," Julia gasped, struggling 
to get away, Longstreet and Hull 



beside her. 

Faces gleamed with sweat, eyes 
feverish and bright. Mouths gaped 
foolishly, muttering meaningless 
sounds. Clothes were torn, ripped 
off. A girl went down, sliding un- 
derfoot, her shrieks lost in the gen- 
eral din. Another followed, dragged 
down into the milling mass. Men 
and women struggled in a blur of 
abandon, cries and gasps. And on 
all sides the hideous sounds of 
smashing metaJ and glass, the un- 
ending noise of worlds being de- 
stroyed one after another. 

Julia dragged Hull from the 
lounge, her face white. She shud- 
dered, closing her eyes. "I knew it 
was coming. Three days, building 
up to this. Smashed — they're 
smashing them all. All the worlds.'* 

Bart Longstreet made his way 
out after Hull and Julia. "Luna- 
tics." He lit a cigarette shakily. 
"What the hell gets into them? This 
has happened before. They start 
breaking, smashing their worlds up. 
It doesn't make sense." 

Hull reached the descent tube. 
"Come along with us, Bart. We'll 
have breakfast — and I'll give you 
my theory, for what it's worth." 

"Just a second." Bart Longstreet 
scooped up his Worldcraft bubble 
from the arms of a robant. "My 
Contest entry. Don't want to lose 
it." 

He hurried after Julia and Hull. 



*«m«ORE coffee?" Hull asked, 

IT M looking around. 

"None for me," Julia murmured. 
She settled back in her chair, sigh- 
ing. "I'm perfectly happy." 

"I'll take some." Bart pushed his 



THE TROUBLE WITH BUBBLES 



57 



cup toward the coffee dispenser. 
It filled the cup and returned it. 
"You've got a nice Httle place here, 
Hull." 

"Haven't you seen it before?" 

"I don't get up this way. I 
haven't been in Canada in years." 

"Let's hear your theory," Julia 
murmured. 

"Go ahead," Bart said. "We're 
waiting." 

Hull was silent for a moment. 
He gazed moodily across the table, 
past the dishes, at the thing sitting 
on the window ledge. Bart's Con- 
test entry, his Worldcraft bubble. 

" 'Own Your Own World'," 
Hull quoted ironically. "Quite a 
slogan." 

"Packman thought it up him- 
self," Bart said. "When he was 
young. Almost a century ago." 

"That long?" 

"Packman takes treatments. A 
man in his position can afford 
them." 

"Of course." Hull got slowly to 
his feet. He crossed the room and 
returned with the bubble. "Mind?" 
he asked Bart. 

"Go ahead." 

Hull adjusted the controls 
mounted on the bubble's surface. 
The interior scene flickered into 
focus. A miniature planet, revolv- 
ing slowly. A tiny blue-white sun. 
He increased the magnification, 
bringing the planet up in size. 

"Not bad," Hull admitted pre- 
sently. 

"Primitive. Late Jurassic. I don't 
have the knack. I can't seem to 
get them into the mammal stage. 
This is my sixteenth try. I never 
can get any farther than this." 

The scene was a dense jungle, 



steaming with fetid rot. Great 
shapes stirred fitfully among the 
decaying ferns and marshes. Coiled, 
gleaming, reptilian bodies, smoking 
shapes rising up from the thick 
mud — 

"Turn it off," Julia murmured. 
"I've seen enough of them. We 
viewed hundreds for the Contest." 
"I didn't have a chance." Bart 
retrieved his bubble, snapping it 
off. "You have to do better than 
the Jurassic, to win. Competition 
is keen. Half the people there had 
their bubbles into the Eocene — and 
at least ten into the Pliocene. LoraN 
entry wasn't much ahead. I counted 
several city-building civilizations. 
But hers was almost as advanced 
as we are." 

"Sixty years," Julia said. 
"She's been trying a long time. 
She's worked hard. One of those 
to whom it's not a game but a real 
passion. A way of life." 

"And then she smashes it," Hull 
said thoughtfully. "Smashes the 
bubble to bits. A world she's been 
working on for years. Guiding it 
through period after period. Higher 
and higher. Smashes it into a mil- 
lion pieces." 

"Why?" Julia asked. "Whv, 
Nat? Why do they do it? They gr-: 
so far, building it up — and then 
they tear it all down again.* 1 

Hull leaned back in his chair. 
"It began," he stated, "when we 
failed to find life on any of the 
other planets.' When our exploring 
parties came back empty-handed. 
Eight dead orbs — lifeless. Good for 
nothing. Not even lichen. Rock and 
sand. Endless deserts. One after 
the other, all the way out to Pluto." 
"It was a hard realization ," Bart 



58 



PHILIP K. DICK 



said. "Of course, that was before 
our time." 

"Not much before. Packman re- 
members it. A century ago. We 
waited a long time for rocket trav- 
el, flight to other planets. And 
then to find nothing . . ." 

"Like Columbus finding the 
world really was flat," Julia said. 
"With an edge and a void." 

"Worse. Columbus was looking 
for a short route to China. They 
could have continued the long way. 
But when we explored the system 
and found nothing we were in for 
trouble. People had counted on 
new worlds, new lands in the sky. 
Colonization. Contact with a vari- 
ety of races. Trade. Minerals and 
cultural products to exchange. But 
most of all the thrill of landing on 
planets with amazing life-forms." 

"And instead of that . . ." 

"Nothing but dead rock and 
waste. Nothing that could support 
life — our own or any other kind. 
A vast disappointment set in on 
all levels of society." 

"And then Packman brought out 
the Worldcraft bubble," Bart mur- 
mured. " 'Own Your Own World'. 
There was no place to go, outside 
of Terra. No other worlds to visit. 
You couldn't leave here and go to 
another world. So instead, you — " 

"Instead you stayed home and 
put together your own world." Hull 
smiled wryly. "You know, he has 
a child's version out, now. A sort 
of preparation kit. So the child can 
cover the basic problems of world 
building before he even has a bub- 
ble." 

"But look, Nat," Bart said. "The 
bubbles seemed like a good idea, at 
first. We couldn't leave Terra so we 



built our own worlds right here. 
Sub-atomic worlds, in controlled 
containers. We start life going on a 
sub-atomic world, feed it problems 
to make it evolve, try to raise it 
higher and higher. In theory there's 
nothing wrong with the idea. It's 
certainly a creative pastime. Not 
a merely passive viewing like tele- 
vision. In fact, world-building is 
the ultimate art form. It takes the 
place of all entertainments, all the 
passive sports as well as music and 
painting — " 

"But something went wrong." 

"Not at first," Bart objected. 
"At first it was creative. Everybody 
bought a Worldcraft bubble and 
built his own world. Evolved life 
farther and farther. Molded life. 
Controlled it. Competed with oth- 
ers to see who could achieve the 
most advanced world." 

"And it solved another problem," 
Julia added. "The problem of lei- 
sure. With robots to work for us 
and robants to serve us and take 
care of our needs — " 

"Yes, that was a problem," Hull 
admitted. "Too much leisure. 
Nothing to do. That, and the 
disappointment of finding our 
planet the only habitable planet in 
the system. 

"Packman's bubbles seemed to 
solve both problems. But something 
went wrong. A change came. I 
noticed it right away." Hull stubbed 
out his cigarette and lit another. 
"The change began ten years 
ago — and it's been growing worse." 



S *«UT WHY?" Julia de- 

O manded. "Explain to me 

why everyone stopped building their 



THE TROUBLE WITH BUBBLES 



59 



worlds creatively and began to de- 
stroy." 

"Ever seen a child pull wings off 
a fly?" 

"Certainly. But — '* 

"The same thing. Sadism? No, 
not exactly. More a sort of curi- 
osity. Power. Why does a child 
break things? Power, again. We 
must never forget something. These 
world bubbles are substitutes. They 
take the place of something else, of 
finding genuine life on our own 
planets. And they're just too damn 
small to do that. 

"These worlds are like toy boats 
in a bath tub. Or model rocketships 
you see kids playing with. They're 
surrogates, not the actual thing. 
These people who operate them — 
why do they want them? Because 
they can't explore real planets, big 
planets. They have a lot of energy 
dammed up inside them. Energy 
they can't express. 

"And bottled-up energy sours. It 
becomes aggressive. People work 
with their little worlds for a time, 
building them up. But finally they 
reach a point where their latent 
hostility, their sense of being de- 
prived, their — " 

"It can be explained more easi- 
ly," Bart said calmly. "Your theory 
is too elaborate." 

"How do you explain it?" 

"Man's innate destructive tend- 
encies. His natural desire to kill 
and spread ruin." 

"There's no such thing," Hull 
said flatly. "Man isn't an ant. He 
has no fixed direction to his drives. 
He has no instinctive 'desire to de- 
stroy' any more than he has an in- 
stinctive desire to carve ivory letter- 
openers. He has energy — and the 



outlet it takes depends on the op- 
portunities available. 

"That's what's wrong. All of us 
have energy, the desire to move, 
act, do. But we're bottled up here, 
sealed off, on one planet. So we 
buy Worldcraft bubbles and make 
little worlds of our own. But micro- 
scopic worlds aren't enough. ' 
They're as satisfactory as a toy 
sailboat is to a man who wants to 
go sailing." 

Bart considered a long time, deep 
in thought. "You may be right," he 
admitted finally. "It sounds reason- 
able. But what's your suggestion? 
If the other eight planets are 
dead — " 

"Keep exploring. Beyond the 
system." 

"We're doing that." 

"Try to find outlets that aren't 
so artificial." 

Bart grinned. "You feel this way 
because you never caught the hang 
of it." He thumped his bubble 
fondly. "I don't find it artificial." 

"But most people do," Julia put 
in. "Most people aren't satisfied. 
That's why we left the Contest 
Party." 

Bart grunted. "It's turning sour, 
all right. Quite a scene, wasn't it?" 
He reflected, frowning. "But the 
bubbles are better than nothing. 
What do you suggest? Give up our 
bubbles? What should we do in- 
stead? Just sit around and talk?" 

"Nat loves to talk," Julia mur- 
mured. 

"Like all intellectuals." Bart 
tapped Hull's sleeve. "When you 
sit in your seat in the Directorate 
you're with the Intellectual and 
Professional class — gray stripe." 

"And you?" 



60 



PHILIP K. DICK 



"Blue stripe. Industrial. You 
know that." 

Hull nodded. "That's right. 
You're with Terran Spaceways. 
The ever-hopeful company." 

"So you want us to give up our 
bubbles and just sit around. Quite 
a solution to the problem." 

"You're going to have to give 
them up." Hull's face flushed. 
"What you do after that is your 
affair." 

"What do you mean?" 

Hull turned toward Longstreet, 
eyes blazing. "I've introduced a bill 
in the Directorate. A bill that will 
outlaw Worldcraft." 

Bart's mouth fell open. "You 
what?" 

"On what grounds?" Julia 
asked, waking up. 

"On moral grounds," Hull stated 
calmly. "And I think I can get it 
through." 

THE DIRECTORATE hall 
buzzed with murmuring echoes, 
its vast reaches alive with moving 
shadows, men taking their places 
and preparing for the session's busi- 
ness. 

Eldon von Stern, Directorate 
Floor Leader, stood with Hull off 
to one side behind the platform. 
"Let's get this straight," von Stern 
said nervously, running his fingers 
through his iron-gray hair. "You 
intend to speak for this bill of yours? 
You want to defend it yourself?" 

Hull nodded. "That's right, Why 
not?" 

"The analytical machines can 
break the bill down and present an 
impartial report for the members. 
Spellbinding has gone out of style. 
If you present an emotional ha- 



rangue you can be certain of losing. 
The members won't — " 

"I'll take the chance. It's too im- 
portant to leave to the machines." 

Hull gazed out over the immense 
room that was slowly quieting. 
Representatives from all over the 
world were in their places. White- 
clad property owners. Blue-clad 
financial and industrial magnates. 
The red shirts of leaders from 
factory cooperatives and communal 
farms. The green-clad men and 
women representing the middle- 
class consumer group. His own 
gray-striped body, at the extreme 
right, the doctors, lawyers, scien- 
tists, educators, intellectuals and 
professionals of all kinds. 

"I'll take the chance," Hull re- 
peated. "I want to see the bill 
passed. It's time the issues were 
made clear." 

Von Stern shrugged. "Suit your- 
self." He eyed Hull curiously. 
"What do you have against World- 
craft? It's too powerful a combine 
to buck. Packman himself is here, 
someplace. I'm surprised you — " 

The robot chair flashed a signal. 
Von Stern moved away from Hull, 
up onto the platform. 

"Are you sure you want to speak 
for the bill?" Julia said, standing 
beside Hull in the shadows. "May- 
be he's right. Let the machines an- 
alyze the bill." 

Hull was gazing out across the 
sea of faces, trying to locate Pack- 
man. The owner of Worldcraft was 
sitting out there. Forrest Packman, 
in his immaculate white shirt, like 
an ancient, withered angel. Pack- 
man preferred to sit with the pro- 
perty group, considering World- 
craft real estate instead of industry. 



THE TROUBLE WITH BUBBLES 



61 



Property still had the edge on pres- 
tige. 

Von Stern touched Hull's arm. 
"All right. Take the chair and ex- 
plain your proposal." 

Hull stepped out onto the plat- 
form and seated himself in the big 
rilarble chair. The endless rows of 
faces before him were carefully de- 
void of expression. 

"You've read the terms of the 
proposal I'm speaking for," Hull 
began, his voice magnified by the 
speakers on each member's desk. 
"I propose we should declare 
Worldcraft Industries a public 
menace and the real property the 
possession of the State. I can state 
my grounds in a few sentences. 

"The theory and construction of, 
the Worldcraft product, the sub- 
atomic universe system, is known 
to you. An infinite number of sub- 
atomic worlds exist, microscopic 
counterparts of our own spatial co- 
ordinate. Worldcraft developed, al- 
most a century ago, a method of 
controlling to thirty decimals the 
forces and stresses involved on these 
micro-coordinate planes, and a fair- 
ly simplified machine which could 
be manipulated by any adult per- 
son. 

"These machines for controlling 
specific areas of sub-atomic coordi- 
nates have been manufactured and 
sold to the general public with the 
slogan: 'Own Your Own World'. 
The idea is that the owner of the 
machine becomes literally a world 
owner, since the machine controls 
forces that govern a sub-atomic uni- 
verse that is directly analogous to 
our own. 

"By purchasing one of these 
Worldcraft machines, or bubbles, 



the person finds himself in posses- 
sion of a virtual universe, to do 
with as he sees fit. Instruction 
manuals supplied by the Company 
show him how to control these mi- 
nute worlds so that life forms ap- 
pear and rapidly evolve, giving rise 
to higher and higher forms until 
at last — assuming the owner is suf- 
ficiently skilful — he has in his per- 
sonal possession a civilization of be- 
ings on a cultural par with our 
own, 

"During the last few years we 
have seen the sale of these machines 
grow until now almost everyone 
possesses one or more sub-atomic 
worlds, complete with civilizations. 
And these years have also seen 
many of us take our private uni- 
verses and grind the inhabitants 
and planets into dust. 

"There is no law which prevents 
us from building up elaborate civ- 
ilizations, evolved at an incredible 
rate of speed, and then crushing 
them out of existence. That is why 
my proposal has been presented. 
These minute civilizations are not 
dreams. They are real. They ac- 
tually exist. The microscopic in- 
habitants are — " 

A restless stir moved through the 
vast hall. There were murmurs and 
coughs. Some members had 
switched off their speakers. Hull 
hesitated. A chill touched him. The 
faces below were blank, cold, unin- 
terested. He continued rapidly. 

"The inhabitants are, at present, 
subject to the slightest whim their 
owner may feel. If we wish to reach 
down and crush their world, turn 
on tidal waves, earthquakes, tor- 
nados, fire, volcanic action — if we 
wish to destroy them utterly, there 



62 

is nothing they can do. 

"Our position in relation to these 
minute civilizations is godlike. We 
can, with a wave of the hand, ob- 
literate countless millions. We can 
send the lightning down, level their 
cities, squash their tiny buildings 
like ant hills. We can toss them 
about like toys, playthings, victims 
of our every whim." 

Hull stopped, rigid with appre- 
hension. Some of the members had 
risen and strolled out. Von Stern's 
face twisted with ironic amuse- 
ment 

Hull continued lamely. "I want 
to see Worldcraft bubbles outlawed. 
We owe it to these civilizations on 
humanitarian grounds, on moral 
grounds — " 

He went on, finishing as best he 
could. When he got to his feet there 
was a faint ripple of applause from 
the gray-striped professional group. 
But the white-clad property own- 
ers were utterly silent. And the blue 
industrialists. The red shirts and 
the green-clad consumer repre- 
sentatives were silent, impassive, 
even a little amused. 

Hull returned to the wings, cold 
with the stark realization of defeat. 
"We've lost," he muttered, dazed. 
"I don't understand." 

Julia took his arm. "Maybe an 
appeal on some other grounds , . . 
Maybe the machines can still — " 

Bart Longstreet came out of the 
shadows. "No good, Nat. Won't 
work." 

Hull nodded. "I know." 

"You can't moralize Worldcraft 
away. That's not the solution." 

Von Stern had given the signal. 
The members began to cast their 
votes, the tabulation machines 



PHILIP K. DICK 

whirring to life. Hull stood staring 
silently out at the murmuring room, 
crushed and bewildered. 

Suddenly a shape appeared in 
front of him, cutting off his view. 
Impatiently he moved to one side 
— but a rasping voice stopped him. 

"Too bad, Mr. Hull. Better luck 
next time." 

Hull stiffened. "Packman!" he 
muttered. "What do you want?" 

Forrest Packman came out of the 
shadows, moving toward him slow- 
ly, feeling his way blindly along. 



BART LONGSTREET stared 
at the old man with uncon- 
cealed hostility. "I'll see you later, 
Nat." He turned abruptly and 
started off. 

Julia stopped him. "Bart, do you 
have to — " 

"Important business. I'll be back 
later." He moved off down the 
aisle, toward the industrial section 
of the hall. 

Hull faced Packman. He had 
never seen the old man so close be- 
fore. He studied him as he advanced 
slowly, feeling his way along on the 
arm of his robant. 

Forrest Packman was old — a 
hundred and seven years. Preserved 
by hormones and blood transfu- 
sions, elaborate washing and reju- 
venating processes that maintained 
life in his ancient, withered body. 
His eyes, deep-sunk, peered up at 
Hull as he came near, shrunken 
hands clutching the arm of his ro- 
bant, breath coming hoarse and 
dry. 

"Hull? You don't mind if I chat 
with you as the voting goes on? I 
won't be long." He peered blindly 



THE TROUBLE WITH BUBBLES 



63 



past Hull. "Who left? I couldn't 
see — " 

"Bart Longstreet. Spaceways." 

"Oh, yes. I know him. Your 
speech was quite interesting, Hull. 
It reminded me of the old days. 
Thjsse people don't remember how 
it was. Times have changed." He 
stopped, letting the robant wipe 
his mouth and chin. "I used to be 
interested in rhetoric. Some of the 
old masters . . ." 

The old man rambled on. Hull 
studied him curiously. Was this 
frail withered old man really the 
power behind Worldcraft? It didn't 
seem possible. 

"Bryan," Packman whispered, 
voice dry as ashes. "William Jen- 
nings Bryan. I never heard him, of 
course. But they say he was the 
greatest. Your speech wasn't bad. 
But you don't understand. I lis- 
tened carefully. You have some 
good ideas. But what you're trying 
to do is absurd. You don't know 
enough about people. NobodyV 
really interested in — ** 

He broke off, coughing feebly, 
his robant gripping him with metal 
supports. 

Hull pushed impatiently past. 
"The voting is almost finished. I 
want to hear. If you have any- 
thing to say to me you can file a 
regular memo plate." 

Packman's robant stepped out, 
barring his way. Packman went on 
slowly, shakily. "Nobody is really 
interested in such appeals, Hull. 
You made a good speech but you 
don't have the idea. Not yet, at 
least But you talk well, better than 
Pve heard for a long time. These 
young fellow, faces all washed, 
running around like office boys — " 



Hull strained, listening to the 
vote. The impassive robant body 
cut off his view, but over Pack- 
man's dry rasp he could hear the 
results. Von Stern had risen and 
was reading the totals, group by 
group. 

"Four hundred against, thirty- 
five in favor," von Stern stated.' 
"The proposal has been defeated." 
He tossed the tabulation cards down 
and picked up his agenda. "We'll 
continue with the next business." 

Behind Hull, Packman broke off 
suddenly, his skull-like head cocked 
on one side. His deep-sunk eyes glit- 
tered and the trace of a smile 
twitched across his lips. "Defeated? 
Not even all the grays voted for 
you, Hull. Now maybe you'll listen 
to what I have to say." 

Hull turned away from the hall. 
The robant lowered its arm. "It's 
over," Hull said. 

"Come on." Julia moved uneasi- 
ly away from Packman. "Let's get 
out of here." 

"You see," Packman continued 
relentlessly, "you have potentials 
that could be developed into some- 
thing. When I was your age I had 
the same idea you have. I thought 
if people could see the moral issues 
involved, they would respond. But 
people aren't like that. You have to 
be realistic, if you want to get some- 
where. People . . ," 

Hull scarcely heard the dry, 
raspy voice whispering away. De- 
feat. Worldcraft, the world bubbles, 
would continue. The Contest Par- 
ties; bored, restless men and wom- 
en with too much time, drinking 
and dancing, comparing worlds, 
building up to the climax— then the 
orgy of breaking and smashing. 



64 



PHILIP K. DICK 



Over and over. Endlessly. 

"Nobody can buck Worldcraft," 
Julia said. "It's too big. We'll have 
to accept the bubbles as a part of 
our lives. As Bart says, unless we 
have something else to offer in their 
place . . ." 

Bart Longstreet came rapidly out 
of the shadows. "You still here?" 
he said to Packman. 

"I lost," Hull said. "The vote — " 

"I know. I heard it. But it doesn't 
matter." Longstreet pushed past 
Packman and his robant. "Stay 
here. I'll join you in a second. I 
have to see von Stern." 

Something in Longstreet's voice 
made Hull look up sharply. "What 
is it? What's happened?" 

"Why doesn't it matter?" Julia 
demanded. 

Longstreet stepped up on the 
platform and made his way to von 
Stern. He handed him a message 
plate and then retired to the shad- 
ows. 

Von Stern glanced at the plate — 

And stopped talking. He got to 
his feet slowly, the plate gripped 
tightly. "I have an announcement 
to make.*' Von Stern's voice was 
shaking, almost inaudible. "A dis- 
patch from Spaceways' check sta- 
tion on Projcima Centauri." 

An excited murmur rushed 
through the hall. 

"Exploring ships in the Proxima 
system have contacted trading 
scouts from an extra-galactic civili- 
zation. An exchange of messages 
has already occurred. Spaceways 
ships are moving toward the Arc- 
turan system with the expectation 
of finding — " 

Shouts, a bedlam of sound. Men 
and women on their feet, scream- 



ing in wild joy. Von Stern stopped 
reading and stood, his arms folded, 
his gray face calm, waiting for 
them to quiet. • 

Forrest Packman stood unmov- 
ing, his withered hands pressed to- 
gether, his eyes shut. His robant 
sent support braces around him, 
catching him in a shield of protect- 
ing metal. 

"Well?" Longstreet shouted, 
pushing back to them. He glanced 
at the frail, withered figure held up 
by the robant's supports, then at 
Hull and Julia. "What do you say, 
Hull? Let's get out of here — so we 
can celebrate." 



"W 'LL fly you home " Hull said 

M to Julia. He looked around for 
an inter-continental cruiser. "Too 
bad you live so far away. Hong 
Kong is so damn out of the way." 

Julia caught his arm. "You can 
drive me yourself. Remember? The 
Pacific Tube is open. We're con- 
nected with Asia, now." 

"That's right." Hull opened the 
door of his surface car and Julia 
slid in. Hull got behind the wheel 
and slammed the door. "I forgot, 
with all these other things on my 
mind. Maybe we can see each 
other more often. I wouldn't mind 
spending a few days vacation in 
Hong Kong. Maybe you'll invite 
me." 

He sent the car out into traffic, 
moving with the remote-controlled 
beam. "Tell me more," Julia asked. 
"I want to know all Bart said." 

"Not much more. They've known 
for some time that something was 
up. That's why he wasn't too wor- 
ried about Worldcraft. He knew 



THE TROUBLE WITH BUBBLES 

the bottom would fall out as soon 
as the announcement was made." 

"Why didn't he tell you?" 

Hull grinned wryly. "How could 
he? Suppose the first reports were 
wrong? He wanted to wait until 
th.ey were sure. He knew what the 
results would be." Hull gestured. 
"Look." 

On both sides of the strip a tide 
of men and women poured out of 
buildings, up from the under- 
ground factories, a seething mass 
milling everywhere in disordered 
confusion, snouting and cheering, 
throwing things in the air, tossing 
paper out of windows, carrying 
each other on their shoulders. 

"They're working it off," Hull 
said. "The way it should be. Bart 
says Arcturus is supposed to have 
seven or eight fertile planets, some 
of them inhabited, some just for- 
ests and oceans. The extra-galactic 
traders say that most systems have 
at least one usable planet. They 
visited our system a long time ago. 
Our early ancestors may have 
traded with them." 

"Then there's plenty of life in 
the galaxy?" 

Hull laughed. "If what they say 
is true. And the fact that they exist 
is proof enough," 

"No more Worldcraft." 

"No." Hull shook his head. No 
more Worldcraft. Stock was al- 
ready being dumped. Worthless. 
Probably the State would absorb 
the bubbles already in existence 
and seal them off, leaving the in- 
habitants free to determine their 
own futures. 

The neurotic smashing of la- 
boriously achieved cultures was a 
thing of the past. The buildings of 



65 

living creatures would no longer 
be pushed over to amuse some god 
suffering from ennui and frustra- 
tion. 

Julia sighed, leaning against 
Hull. "Now we can take it easy. 
Sure, you're invited to stay. We 
can take out permanent cohabita- 
tion papers if you want to—" 

Hull leaned forward suddenly, 
his body rigid. "Where's the 
Tube?" he demanded. "The strip 
should be hitting it any minute." 

Julia peered ahead, frowning. 
"Something's wrong. Slow down." 

Hull slowed the car. An obstruc- 
tion signal was flashing ahead. Cars 
were stopping on all sides, shifting 
into emergency retard lanes. 

He ground the car to a halt. 
Rocket cruisers were sweeping 
overhead, exhaust tubes shattering 
the evening silence. A dozen uni- 
formed men ran across a field, di- 
recting a rumbling robot derrick. 

"What the hell—" Hull mut- 
tered. A soldier stepped up to the 
car,, swinging a communication 
flare. 

"Turn around. We need the 
whole strip." 

"But—" 

"What happened?" Julia asked. 

"The Tube. Earthquake, some- 
place half way out. Broke the Tube 
in ten sections." The soldier hur- ■ 
ried off. Construction robots rushed 
past in a hand cart, assembling 
equipment as they went. 

Julia and" Hull stared at each 
other wide-eyed. "Good Lord," 
Hull muttered. "Ten places. And 
the Tube must have been full of 



(Continued on page 117) 



The climate was perfect, the sky was always 
blue, and — best of all — nobody had to work. 
What more could anyone want? 



By James McKimmey, Jr. 



illustrated by Paul Orbcn 



r* WAS a small world, a tiny 
spinning globe, placed in the 
universe to weather and age by it- 
self until the end of things. But be- 
cause its air was good and its earth 
was fertile, Daniel Loveral had 
placed a finger upon a map and 
said, "This is the planet. This is 
the Dream Planet." 

That was two years before, back 
on Earth. And now Loveral with 
his selected flock had shot through 
space, to light like chuckling geese 
upon the planet, to feel the effect 
of their dreams come true. 

Loveral was sitting in his office, 
drumming his long fingers against 
his desk while the name, Atkinson, 
ticked through his brain like the 
sound of a sewing machine. 

Would he be the only one, Lov- 
eral asked himself, or was he just 
the first? In either case, it was up 
to Loveral, as leader and guiding 
hand, to stop this thing and stop 
it quickly. 

Loveral stood up and put on his 



67 



jacket, although there was no need 
for it, other than the formality it 
gave his figure. 

He stepped out oi his office into a 
clear bright day, where the air was 
clean and fresh in his lungs, at 
once like frost and fire and sweet 
perfume. He walked along a wind- 
ing path, which was bordered by 
slim-necked flowers and a short 
hedge whose even clipped lines 
were kept neat by tireless robot 
hands. 

Trees pointed to a blue sky, 
rocking and fluttering their leaves 
in a soft breeze, and glinting metal- 
lic houses lay peacefully beyond in 
wooded hollows and upon slight 
hills. 

A whole small world was before 
his eyes, set there upon his direc- 
tion, maintained by himself with 
the help of a dozen complex ma- 
chines which lay locked and sealed 
in the Maintenance Room for only 
his fingers to touch. 

It was a busy life for Loveral, up 



68 



JAMES McKIMMEY, JR. 



at dawn to work until deep night, 
keeping his flock happy and free 
from spirit-killing labor. But it was 
a perfect plan, one which had 
been tested and turned in his mind 
for years. If he had to work hard 
to keep it running smoothly, that 
was all right. In fact, he had never 
been happier. 

Now, however, there was this 
business about Atkinson. Loveral 
was disturbed about that. 

He walked on, over the quiet 
path which would lead to the 
house where Atkinson and his wife 
lived. Loveral smiled, in readiness 
for any happy face that might ap- 
pear before him, to greet him, to 
show with thankful eyes apprecia- 
tion for his wonderful world. But 
that, too, brought thoughts that 
were a bit disturbing. 

Lately there had been few such 
faces. Most of his flock no longer 
seemed to care about walking 
along the cultivated paths, or smil- 
ing, or nodding, or touching a leaf 
here or a flower there. They pre- 
ferred, it appeared, to remain deep 
inside their houses, as though they 
might have become tired of the 
soft perfection of Dream Planet. 
As though they might have be- 
come weary of quiet woods and 
sweet bird-music or a sky which 
was always blue. 

Loveral shook his head as he 
walked, puzzling out his thoughts. 
It was strange, but nothing to 
worry about certainly. 

Just this business about Atkin- 
son. That was his only worry. 

He came slowly up a hill, the top 
of which held a low curving house, 
with a silver roof and wide, sweep- 
ing windows. There were yellow 



and blue and deep red flowers, 
skirting the sides of the house, and 
green ivy grew thickly between the 
glistening windows. The lawn, dot- 
ted with small leafy trees and 
round bushes, sloped down from 
the front of the house, looking like 
a carefully arranged painting. 

Loveral pressed a button beside 
a shining door and waited, smiling 
through his pale blue kindly eyes. 



MRS. ATKINSON appeared 
after several moments and 
stood blinking at him. She was a 
thin woman, who seemed to have 
gotten even thinner, Loveral no- 
ticed. She was working her fingers 
at the neck of her dress. She smiled 
but her lips wavered. 

"My dear," Loveral greeted her 
in his soft voice, showing the 
goodness in his eyes. 

She nodded her recognition, 
opening her mouth without speak- 
ing. 

"May I?" said Loveral finally, 
waving his long fingers toward the 
living room. 

"Oh, yes," said the woman. "Of 
course, Mr. Loveral." And as she 
spoke Loveral had the impression 
she might suddenly begin crying. 

Loveral followed the woman 
into the house, noticing all over 
again the precise way everything 
had been arranged. The rug was: 
soft beneath his feet, and the light 
came in through the windows in 
such a way that it, too, became 
soft. The furniture, molded to hold 
a human body most comfortably, 
rested about the room in perfect 
efficiency. 

"Your place is so lovely," Lov- 



PLANET OF DREAMS 



69 



eral said, out of his old habit from 
Earth. But his words seemed to 
ring strangely in the quiet, because 
it was his own arrangement, like 
all the other rooms on the planet. 
And Mrs. Atkinson, standing thin 
and nervous before him, had noth- 
ing, after all, to do with it. The 
cleanliness was the work of his ro- 
bot machines, the planning his own. 
It was like complimenting himself. 

He cleared his throat and stood, 
smiling his most benevolent smile 
to reassure Mrs. Atkinson. 

"Ah, my dear. Is George about?" 

Again, the woman's hand skit- 
tered to her throat. 

"He's not ill, surely?" Loveral 
asked, although this, too, was silly, 
because foods, selected and pre- 
pared for utmost nutrition, packed 
and frozen to be doled out in week- 
ly quantities, purified air, disease- 
killing serums, simply written fold- 
ers on exercise, and of course Lov- 
eral's own philosophies of quiet, 
peaceful living — all of this guarded 
well the health of Dream Planet's 
flock. 

The woman shook her head. 
"No, George is fine. He's just — 
sleeping, I think. 1 ' 

"Rest is nature's finest tonic," 
said Loveral, and hearing his voice 
thought suddenly there was hardly 
anything he could say any more 
that might not sound a bit out of 
place in this peaceful world. Rest 
to the man who had nothing to do 
ceased to be a tonic. 

"Yes, yes," said Loveral. "May 
we just sit down, my dear?" 

Mrs. Atkinson jerked a hand to- 
ward one of the chairs and then 
wound her fingers. 

Loveral sat down and leaned 



back, smiling his most charming 
smile. "Perhaps George might 
awaken after a bit?" 

"Oh, yes," the woman said, her 
eyes nickering, and she sat upon 
the edge of one chair, like a bird 
perched upon a thin wire. 

Loveral waited, legs crossed, 
leaning his head back against the 
silken softness of the chair. It was 
so good to relax these days. The 
business of watching and of caring 
for his flock was trying. When you 
have brought an entire community 
of people at great expense through 
space, guaranteeing to give them a 
life of constant comfort and ease, 
so that they might dream and think 
as they wander through the flowers 
and the leaves, their thoughts 
cleansed of worry about work and 
responsibility, then you have a job. 
Loveral was most busy, busier than 
his heritage of wealth ever before 
had allowed, seeing to all of this. 

But he also was most content — 
with everything except Atkinson. 

Mrs. Atkinson teetered on the 
edge of her chair, as though she 
might at any moment go flying 
across the room in a crazy gyration. 
There was something about her 
eyes, Loveral noticed, while he 
peacefully nodded in the chair. 
Fear, perhaps. 

If so, he probably had been 
right. He tightened himself, listen- 
ing. There it was again. The sound. 
Just as he had heard it a day be- 
fore when he had passed near the 
house. He leaned forward quickly. 

Mrs. Atkinson jumped. 

Loveral smiled. "Didn't I hear a 
noise of some sort, my dear?" 

"Noise?" the woman said, as 
though her own voice were the 



70 

sound of an echo. 

"An odd noise," Loveral said, 
his eyes searching. 

The woman's hands fluttered 
about her dress. 

Loveral stood up. "Would you 
mind if I just glanced about, my 
dear?" 

The woman didn't answer, but 
Loveral was already moving across 
the room toward a door. He 
opened it and walked down a hall. 
The noise grew stronger. He threw 
open another door. 



1TJTE STOOD Watching while 
JLJL George Atkinson spun 
around, dark eyes flashing, hair 
tousled. There was a two days' 
growth of beard darkening Atkin- 
son's face. 

"Why, George," Loveral said, 
swiftly examining the litter of met- 
al and wood which was spread 
over a table behind Atkinson. 
There was a home-made hammer 
in Atkinson's hand. "What have 
we here, George?" 

"Something for you," Atkison 
said, tightening his fingers about 
the handle of the hammer. 

Loveral grinned his famous Lov- 
eral grin. "That's fine. What could 
it be?" 

"None of your damned business." 

"George," Loveral said, his smile 
still white but his eyes narrow 
and quick. 

The woman was behind them. 
Her voice screeched. "George, I 
told you. Why didn't you listen, 
George? You should have listened 
to me. You — " 

Loveral held up a hand, still 
watching Atkinson. "Now tell me, 



JAMES McKIMMEY, JR. 

George, what is it you're making 
for me?" 

Atkinson raised the hammer 
slightly. 

Loveral stood very still. "That's 
a nice hammer, George." 

Atkinson's eyes were black be- 
neath his thick brows. 

"You made that, didn't you?'* 
Loveral asked. 

"Yes, I made that," Atkinson 
said. "I made that and I made 
something else. Another minute and 
I'll have that finished, too." 

"George," said Loveral. stepping 
quietly forward, "I don't like to say 
this, of course. You've been one of 
our very best members. But nobody 
works here, George. We can't al- 
low that. You know the rules." 

"I know the rules, all right." 

"Well, then," Loveral said, ex- 
tending his hand toward the ham- 
mer, "we'll just destroy this and 
whatever else you might have been 
making. W r e'll just forget it ever 
happened. We'll get along real fine 
that way, George. We'll just be 
such good friends." 

"We'll just go to hell," said At- 
kinson, snatching his hammer 
away. 

Loveral's smile disappeared. "I'll 
tell you, George. I have to mean 
business with this. You know the 
reasons. If we allow anybody to 
work here, then there's going to be 
trouble. That isn't our plan. We're 
here to grow within ourselves and 
expand culturally. Not to commer- 
cialize a beautiful world like Dream 
Planet." 

Atkinson stood unmoving, and 
Loveral could see the way the 
man's muscles were tight, lite steel 
springs, and the way his eyes 



PLANET OF DREAMS 



71 



burned deep inside their blackness. 

"We've given you everything you 
need," Loveral explained, trying to 
adjust the smile on his lips again. 
"Everybody has everything they 
want. But, you see, if you sit there 
and work and make something that 
someone else doesn't have, then the 
whole system is destroyed. Then 
someone will want what you've 
made. We'll have jealousy and 
hatred and fighting. This is the 
stuff of which wars are made, 
George. You know that. It starts 
with small things like this, but it 
grows. When it does, the structure 
of our life here will collapse. You 
wouldn't want that, would you, 
George?" 

"Yes!" Atkinson said, his mouth 
white at the edges. "I'd like to see 
the whole rotten thing collapsed 
and blown to hell!" 

Loveral's teeth snapped together 
and his lips grew tight. He could 
feel a muscle jumping along his 
neck. 

Atkinson looked at him with fu- 
rious eyes. "What do you think it's 
like, living this way? You're busy 
working twenty-four hours a day, 
while we wander around this 
damned prison like the breathing 
dead. You can feel sweat and aches 
in your bones from a hard day's 
work. Sleep is like medicine to you, 
instead of another stretch of tor- 
ture. You can forget your own 
brain for a while by doing some- 
thing with your hands. You can re- 
lax because you can get tired. Not 
us, by God. Not us!" 

"I envy you, George," Loveral 
said through his teeth. 

"Oh, like hell you do. You treat 
us like we were helpless infants. 



You feed and clothe us and do all 
our work, and you're so happy you 
damned near split your guts." 

"I'll take that, if you don't 
mind," Loveral said, reaching for 
the hammer, his voice suddenly icy 
cold. 

Atkinson slammed back against 
the table. "No you won't. You won'f 
take anything more at all. You've 
taken our spirit and our pride and 
the strength right out of our spines. 
You won't take anything more!" 

"George?" Loveral said, but not 
moving any further. 

Atkinson slid the hammer back 
of him onto the table, and his hands 
were searching among a dozen scat- 
tered pieces of metal and wood. He 
watched Loveral as he worked. 
"Let me show you what else I've 
made," he said. 

"I*d hate to do it," Loveral said, 
"but I can stop your food, your 
water, everything." 

Atkinson's hands moved swiftly, 
assembling the pieces. He nodded. 
"You can, but you won't." 

"I have the only keys to the stor- 
age units. I control everything, 
George." 

"Correction," said Atkinson, 
holding an assembled revolver in 
his hands. "You did." 



T OVERAL looked at what At- 
-ILf kinson had in his hands. He 
blinked. 

"You're nearly dead," Atkinson 
said. 

Loveral looked at Atkinson, into 
his eyes. "If you wanted to kill me, 
you could have done it some other 
way." 

Atkinson shook his head. "Just 



72 



JAMES McKIMMEY, JR. 



this way. Just with something that 
took me dozens of days and nights 
to make. With something that made 
me sweat and swear to get. It was 
difficult — with no tools or proper 
materials — but that made it all the 
better. Now I've got it finished," 
he said, pushing a bullet into the 
chamber, "and ready to use." 

Loveral stood frozen, then he 
turned. "My dear," he said to the 
woman who moved her mouth as 
though her voice had been pumped 
out of her. He reached to touch 
her shoulder. She recoiled, as 
though his fingers held poison. 
"George," he said, turning back to 
the black-eyed man. 

"This is a great moment," At- 
kinson said, lifting the muzzle of 
the revolver. "When I squeeze the 
trigger, it'll be like blowing the lock 
off a prison door. I'll go yelling to 
the others, and we'll smash down 
the whole goddamned place. We'll 
smash it down, so we'll have to re- 
build it. We'll pull apart every 
robot you've got. We'll tear apart 
the food lockers and have a cele- 
bration for a week, and when we've 
gotten sick from too much food, 
we'll start growing some more with 
our own hands. We'll make forges 
for the men and looms for the 
women. We'll burn our clothes 
and make new ones. We'll grow 
corn in the fields. We'll pump water 
from the ground. You're finished, 
Loveral." 



Loveral stared at the revolver. 
"George," he said, pleading. "The 
plans. The beautiful, beautiful 
plans. All of you, you all wanted 
peace and contentment. Time to 
think and dream. You all wanted 
to get away from the work and 
the worry and the responsibility. 
You—" 

Atkinson fired the gun into Lov- 
eral's stomach. 

Loveral gestured at the air and 
fell to his knees. Atkinson threw 
his gun through a window and 
grabbed his wife by the hand. 
"Hurry!" he said, laughing. "Hur- 
ry!" 

Loveral felt of the blood on his 
shirt and rested on his knees. He 
could hear footsteps, racing through 
the house and out to the yard. He 
held out his bloody hand and 
looked at it. Atkinson's voice pealed 
through the warm clear air. "He's 
dead! Loveral's dead!" 

There was a sound of sudden ac- 
tivity, and everywhere went the 
cry, "Loveral's dead!" 

Loveral sank to his haunches and 
opened his lips. The blood was 
there, too. He could hear the shouts 
and the laughter, and then the tear- 
ing of steel, the smashing of glass. 
He bent over his knees, trembling 
with a sudden chill. The sound of 
destruction grew like thunder. 
"Why?" he said in his dying throat. 
"Oh, why? It was what they said 
they wanted?" 



Personalities 
in Science 

A Bell Rang 30 Feet Away, 
and Wireless Was Born 



WHEN Guglielrao Marconi was 
born, a servant in his parents* 
home in Bologna exclaimed, "What 
big ears he has!" His mother an- 
swered, with an almost unbeliev- 
ably prophetic pride, "With such 
ears he will be able to hear the still 
small voice of the air." 

Marconi's father was a prosper- 
ous business man; his mother, Anna 
Jameson, was the daughter of a 
well-known Dublin distiller's fam- 
ily. She was a staunch Scotch-Irish 
Protestant and an exceedingly fine 
musician; she taught young Gug- 
Helmo to be an accomplished pian- 
ist, a student of the Bible, and to 
be both tenacious and persevering. 

Marconi was absorbed in science 
by the time he was twelve. The 
only thing that seemed able to tear 
him way from his experiments was 
his fondness for an old blind man, 
and this one small leisure was ex- 
plained when his parents discov- 
ered that the old man was a former 
telegrapher and was teaching young 
Guglielmo Morse code. 

At twenty he read an obituary of 
the German Heinrich Hertz which 
described Hertz's experiments with 
electro-magnetic waves and be- 
came possessed with the idea that 




Gugtielmo Marconi 



signals could be transmitted 
through the air without wires, just 
as Hertz had transmitted the spark. 
His first experiment with the idea 
succeeded that same year. After 
months of heartbreaking failure he 
pressed a switch one night — and a 
bell rang in a room 30 feet away. 
This first success was followed by 
others with distances constantly in- 
creasing. But when Marconi offered 
the Italian government the inven- 
tion, it was decided after a brief 
discussion that the machine was not 
worthy of attention and his offer 
was refused. 

His mother encouraged him to 
try her country, and in 1896 he ar- 
rived in London with two trunks 
full of instruments. The inatru- 



73 



74 



GUGLIELMO MARCONI 



ments had suffered mightily at the 
hands of the customs inspectors, 
and Marconi's first heartbreaking 
task was to replace them. Fortu- 
nately, the British Government re- 
alized that he had a revolutionary 
invention which might one day 
make it possible to communicate 
with ships at sea. Less than one 
year later a corporation was formed 
to exploit wireless telegraphy, and 
the first sending station was built 
on the Isle of Wight. And this 
young inventor of twenty-three 
found himself an immensely 
wealthy man. 

Despite occasional fiascos, the 
success of wireless received world- 
wide publicity; stations were built 
on the Continent and in England, 
and wireless equipment was in- 
stalled in all British and Italian 
ships. But Marconi was not con- 
tent; his dream was to unite 
Europe and America by wireless. 
He had been warned that the cur- 
vature of the Earth would interfere 
with the waves ; people scolded 
him for not being content with 
what he had already wrought, and 
the cost of establishing the trans- 
oceanic stations was prohibitive in 
the face of possible failure — yet he 
was determined to try. 

Faced with disaster at the very 
outset when the station at the 
Southwest tip of England was de- 
stroyed in a storm, Marconi stub- 
bornly spent a year rebuilding it, 
and then proceeded to Newfound- 
land which had been chosen as the 
American point for the trans-At- 
lantic effort. Weather conditions 
and technical difficulties that were 
almost insurmountable battled 
against him, but in 1901 the first 



signal — three clicks like the three 
dots of Morse code — came through 
to the English station and Gug- 
lielmo Marconi's dream was a re- 
ality. 



THE TREMENDOUS news was 
received with large doses of 
scepticism, and to still forever the 
doubting voices Marconi decided 
to build a regular station for per- 
manent transmission at the site of 
the experimental station in New- 
foundland. But more than scepti- 
cism had to be overcome. The 
cable company that owned the 
trans- Atlantic cable threatened 
legal action if the wireless experi- 
ments didn't stop, and Marconi 
saw the dream fade, 

Canada, spurred by the faith of 
Mother England in the experi- 
ments, offered 16,000 pounds and 
land in Nova Scotia for the Amer- 
ican station. It took two long years 
of effort, disappointment and ex- 
periment to complete the station — 
and more heartbreak was in store 
for Marconi before success was 
achieved. Then the twenty-eight- 
year-old genius returned to Europe 
and a hero's triumphs, 

Honors and titles were showered 
on him, and these served to spur 
him on to newer heights. After two 
years of unceasing work he decided 
to take a vacation, and typically 
chose one of the remote wireless 
stations as the perfect spot. Here at 
Pool he met nineteen-year-old Bea- 
trice O'Brien, and after a whirl- 
wind courtship they were married. 
The honeymoon spot was, again 
characteristically, the station at 
Nova Scotia. 



PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 



75 



While still on the honeymoon 
Marconi was recalled to London. 
The company's funds had run out 
and London banks refused new 
credit to further research and ex- 
periment. A frantic trip to Italy to 
seek further financing was fruitless ; 
the-Italian banks didn't think he was 
a good risk either. Marconi's only 
hope seemed to he in reorganizing 
the company himself. He was able 
to do it — but it took everything 
that he had. Instead of better 
times, things just got blacker. His 
first son was stricken and died at 
three months; German and Amer- 
ican cable companies were infring- 
ing on his patents, and the Glace 
Bay station which had cost so 
much in time, money, and effort 
was completely destroyed by fire. 

The indomitable spirit of perse- 
verance and tenacity that was the 
mark of this man was scarcely 
dented by these disasters; instead 
they seemed to spur him on. He 
rolled up his sleeves and proceeded 
to fight the patent infringements 
with everything he could muster, 
began the rebuilding of the Glace 
Bay station, and did all in his power 
to convince the world that wireless 
had commercial possibilities. 



In less than a year the station 
had been rebuilt, the first lawsuit 
won, and Marconi was riding the 
crest of the wave again. The honor 
of receiving the Nobel Prize for 
physics in 1909 merely interrupted 
the steamroller for a brief time. 
Having exploited all the possibili- 
ties of long radio waves, he started ■ 
work with short waves and by 1927 
had transmitted the human voice 
from England to Australia. Then 
came work with reflected radio 
waves which were to produce our 
present day radar, and experiments 
with ultra-short waves which were 
to be the key to television. 

Those who lived and worked 
with him admired his simplicity, 
patience, and warmheartedness ; 
and perhaps the greatest tribute 
was paid to this self-taught man 
who had never been to a university 
by the London Times in an edi- 
torial written at the time of his 
death. 

"When the early twentieth cen- 
tury comes to be surveyed by his- 
torians yet unborn, Guglielmo 
Marconi may be regarded as die 
supremely significant character of 
the epoch, the name by which our 
age is called." — epw 



A RARE TREAT is in store in the next issue of IF. William Tenn, 
who writes with unrivalled skill but much too rarely, returns with 
The Custodian. It's a tale of the last man on Earth — but don't 
decide now that the theme is familiar: this man was in that posi- 
tion by choice! The long, lead novelette will be by Mari Wolf. 
Homo Inferior tells of a man who was alone in a different way, for 
Eric was surrounded by his own people, but couldn't communicate 
with them! These and other fine stories in the November IF will 
thrill and surprise you. On sale everywhere September 11th. 



They were out of place in the Manly Age — Stonecypher, a man 
who loved animals; Moe, a bull who hated men. Together, they 
marched to inevitably similar destinies . . . 



^HDCKSwRILLS 

By Robert Ernest Gilbert 

Illustrated by Tom Beecham 



PRELUDE 

M STONECYPHER lifted his 
■ reed sun hat with the square 
brim, and used a red handkerchief 
to absorb the perspiration streaking 
his forehead. He said, "The pup'll 
make a good guard, 'especially for 
thrill parties." 

L. Dan's golden curls flickered 
in July 1 sunlight. The puppy 
growled when Dan extended a 
gloved hand. "I don't want a 
guard," the hobbyist said. "I want 
him for a dogfight." 

A startling bellow rattled the 
windows of the dog house and 
spilled in deafening waves across 
the yard. Dan whirled, clutching 
his staff. Light glinted on his plastic 
cuirass and danced on his red nylon 
tights. His flabby face turned white. 
"What — " he panted. 

Stonecypher concealed a smile 
behind a long corded hand and 



said, "Just the bull. Serenades us 
sometimes." 

Dan circled the dog house. Stone- 
cypher followed with a forefinger 
pressed to thin lips. In the paddock, 
the bull's head moved up and 
down. It might or might not have 
been a nod. 

The crest of long red and blue- 
black hairs on the bull's neck and 
shoulders created an illusion of pur- 
ple, but the rest of the animal 
matched the black of a duelmas- 
ter's tarn. Behind large eyes encir- 
cled by a white band, his skull 
bulged in a swelling dome, making 
the distance between his short horns 
seem much too great. 

"He's purple!" Dan gasped. 
"Why in the Government don't you 
put him in the ring?" 

Stonecypher gestured toward the 
choppy surface of Kings Lake, nine 
hundred feet below. He said, "Go- 
incidence. I make out the ringmas- 



77 



78 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 



ter's barge just leavin' Highland 
Pier." 

"You're selling him?" 

"Yeah. If they take 'ira. I'd like 
to see 'im in the ring on Depend- 
ence Day." 

Glancing at the watch embedded 
in the left pectoral of his half-ar- 
mor, Dan said, "That would be a 
show! 1*11 take the dog and fly. I've 
a duel in Highland Park at 1 1 :46." 

"The pup's not for sale." 

"Not for sale!" Dan yelled. "You 
told—" 

"Thought you wanted a guard. 
I don't sell for dogfights." 

A sound like "Goood !" came 
from the paddocked bull. 

Dan opened his mouth wide. 
Whatever he intended to say died 
without vocalization, for Gatriona 
came driving the mule team up 
through the apple orchard. The al- 
most identical mules had sorrel 
noses, gray necks, buckskin flanks, 
and black and white pinto backs 
and haunches. "Great Govern- 
ment!" Dan swore. "This place is 
worse than a museum!" 

"Appaloosa mules," Stonecypher 
said. 

Gatriona jumped from the seat of 
the mowing machine. Dan stared. 
Compared to the standard woman 
of the Manly Age who, by dieting, 
posturing, and exercise from child- 
hood, transformed herself into a 
small, thin, dominated creature, 
Gatriona constituted a separate 
species. She was taller than Dan, 
slightly plump, and her hair could 
have been classed as either red or 
blonde. Green overalls became her 
better than they did Stonecypher. 
With no trace of a smile on face or 



in voice, Stonecypher said, "L. 
Dan, meet Catriona." 



LIKE A hypnopath's victim, Dan 
walked to Catriona. He looked 
up at her and whispered, but too 
loudly. Stonecypher heard. His 
hands clamped on the hobbyist's 
neck and jerked. Dan smashed in 
the grass with sufficient force to 
loosen the snaps of his armor. He 
rolled to his feet and swung his 
staff. 

Stonecypher's left hand snatched 
the staff. His right fist collided with 
Dan's square jaw. Glaring down at 
the hobbyist, Stonecypher gripped 
the staff and rotated thick wrists 
outward. The tough plastic popped 
when it broke. 

Scuttling backward, Dan re- 
gained his feet. "You inhuman 
brute!" he growled. "I intended to 
pay for her!" 

"My wife's not for sale either," 
Stonecypher said. "You know how 
to fly." 

Dan thrust out a coated tongue 
and made a noise with it. In a 
memorized singsong, he declared, 
"I challenge you to a duel, in ac- 
cordance with the laws of the Gov- 
ernment, to be fought in the near- 
est duelpen at the earliest possible 
hour." 

"Stony, don't!" Gatriona pro- 
tested. "He's not wo'th it!" 

Stonecypher smiled at her. 
"Have to follow the law," he said. 
He extended his tongue, blurted, 
and announced, "As required by 
the Government, I accept your 
challenge." 

"We'll record it!" Dan snapped. 
He stalked toward the green and 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 



79 



gold butterflier parked in a field of 
seedling Sudan grass. Horns rattled 
on the concrete rails of the pad- 
dock. 

"Burstaard!" the bull bellowed. 

Dan shied and trampled young 
grass under sandaled feet. His 
loosened cuirass clattered rhyth- 
mically. Raising the canopy of the 
butterflier, he slid out the radioak 
and started typing. Stonecypher 
and Catriona approached the hob- 
byist. Gatriona said, "This is 
cowa'dly! Stony nevah fought a 
duel in his life. He won't have a 
chance!" 

"You'll see me soon then, wom- 
an. Where'd you get all that equip- 
ment? You look like something in 
a circus." 

"Ah used to be in a cahnival," 
Catriona said. She kept Stonecy- 
pher in place with a plump arm 
across his chest. "That's wheah you 
belong," she told Dan. "That's all 
you'ah good foV* 

"Watch how you address a man, 
woman," Dan snarled, "or you'll 
end in the duelpen, too." 

Stonecypher snatched the sheet 
from the typer. The request read; 

Duelmaster R. Smith, 
Watauga Duelpen, High- 
land Park, Tennessee. 
L. Dan challenges M. 
Stonecypher. Cause: In- 
terference with "basic 
amatory rights. July 
1. 11:21 amest. 

Stonecypher said, "The cause is 
a lie. You got no rights with Catri- 
ona. Why didn't you tell 'em it's 
because I knocked you ears-over- 
endways, and you're scared to fight 
without a gun?" 



Dan shoved the request into the 
slot and pulled the switch. "I'll kill 
you," he promised. 

While the request was transmit- 
ted by radiophotography, minutes 
passed, bare of further insults. Ca- 
triona and Stonecypher stood near 
the concrete fence enclosing the 
rolling top of Bays Mountain. In- 
terminable labor had converted 650 
acres of the top to arable land. Be- 
low the couple, the steep side of the 
mountain, denuded of timber, dan- 
gerously eroded, and scarred by 
limestone quarries, fell to the rag- 
ged shore of Kings Lake. Two 
miles of water agitated by many 
boats separated the shore and the 
peninsula, which resembled a wrin- 
kled dragon with underslung lower 
jaw distended. The town of High- 
land Park clung to the jutting land, 
and the Highland Bullring ap- 
peared as a white dot more than 
four miles from where Catriona 
and Stonecypher stood. The ring- 
master's barge was a red rectangle 
skirting Russel Chapel Island. 

Dan pulled the answer from the 
buzzing radioak. He walked over 
and held the radiophoto an inch 
from Stonecypher's long nose. It 
read: 

Request OK. Time: July 
4. 3:47 pmest. 

Two attached permits granted 
each duelist the privilege of carry- 
ing one handgun with a capacity of 
not more than ten cartridges of not 
less than .32 caliber. Below the per- 
mits appeared an additional mes- 
sage: 

L. Dan due at Watauga 
Duelpen. 11:46 amest. 



80 

For duel with J. 
George. 

"Government and Taxes!" Dan 
cursed. Throwing Stonecypher's 
permit, he leaped into the green 
and gold butterflier and slammed 
the canopy. The four wings of the 
semi-omithopter blurred with mo- 
tion, lifting the craft into the sky. 
The forward wings locked with 
negative dihedral, the rear wings 
angled to form a ruddcvator, and 
the five-bladed propeller whined, 
chiving the butterflier in a shallow 
dive for the peninsula. 



CATRIONA said, "Ah hope he's 
late, and they shoot him. Ah 
knew you'd finally have to fight, 
but—" 

"You keep out of it next time," 
said Stonccypher. "I happen to 
know that feller's killed two wom- 
en in the pen. He don't care for 
nothin'. Oughta known better than 
to let him come here. He made out 
like he wanted a guard dog, and I 
thought — " 

"Nevah mind, Stony. Ah've got 
to help you. You nevah even fiahed 
a gun." 

"Later, Cat. The ringmaster 
may want to stay for dinner. I'll 
look after the mules." 

Catriona touched Stonecypher's 
cheek and went to the house. Stone- 
cypher unharnessed the Appaloosa 
mules. While they rolled, he took, 
from an empty hay rack, a rubber- 
tipped spear and a tattered cloth 
dummy. The dummy's single arm 
terminated in a red flag. 

Stonecypher concealed spear and 
dummy beneath the floor of the 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 

dog house. Going to the paddock, 
he patted the bull between the 
horns, which had been filed to a 
needle point. "Still goin' through 
with it?" Stonecypher asked. 

"Yaaaa," the bull lowed. "Yaooo 
kuhl Daan. Err'll kuhl uhhh kuh- 
lerrs." 

"All right, Moe. I'll kill Dan, 
and you kill the killers." Stonecy- 
pher stroked the massive hemi- 
sphere of the bull's jaw. "Goodbye, 
Moe." 

"Gooodba," the bull echoed. He 
lovered his nose to the shelled 
corn seasoned with molasses, the 
rolled oats, and the ground barley 
in the trough. 

Stonecypher walked down the 
road to the staircase of stone that 
dammed the old Kingsport Reser- 
voir, abandoned long before Kings 
Lake covered the city. A red elec- 
tric truck crawled up the steep 
road hewn from the slope of the 
gap formed by Dolan Branch. 
When the truck had crossed the 
bridge below the buttressed dam, 
Stonecypher spoke to the fat and 
sweltering man seated beside the 
driver. "I'm M. Stonecypher. Proud 
for you to visit my farm. Dinner's 
ready up at the house." 

"No, no time," smiled the fat 
man, displaying stainless steel teeth. 
"Only time to sec the bull. I 
thought we weren't going to make 
that grade! Why don't those scien- 
tists develop synthetic elements, so 
that we can have atomic power 
again? This radio-electric is so un- 
reliable! I am Ringmaster A. Os- 
well, naturally. This heat is excru- 
ciating! I had hoped it would be 
cooler up here, but something 
seems to have happened to our in- 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 



81 



land-oceanic climate this summer. 
Lead us to the bull, Stonecypher!" 

Clinging to the slatted truck bed, 
Stonecypher directed the stoic driv- 
er to the paddock. The electric 
motor rattled and stopped, and 
Ringmaster Oswell wheezed and 
squirmed from the cab. The ring- 
master wore a vaguely Arabic cos- 
tume, in all variations of red. 

The bull lumbered bellowing 
around the fence. His horns raked 
white gashes in the beech tree 
forming one corner. He tossed the 
feed trough to splintering destruc- 
tion. 

"Magnificent!" Oswell gasped. 
Then the ringmaster frowned. "But 
he looks almost purple. His horns 
are rather short." 

"Stay back from the fence I" 
Stonecypher warned. "He's real 
wide between the horns, ringmas- 
ter. I reckon the spread'!! match 
up to standard. Same stock my 
grandfather used to sell Boon Bull- 
ring before the water. Wouldn't 
sell 'im, only the tenants are scared 
to come about the house." 

Oswell fingered his halloon neck 
and mumbled, "But he's odd. That 
long hair on his neck ... I don't 
know . . ." 

The bull's horns lifted the min- 
eral feeder from the center of the 
paddock. The box rotated over the 
rails and crashed in a cloud of 
floured oyster shells and phosphate 
salt at the ringmaster's feet. 

Oswell took cover behind the 
truck driver, who said, "Fergus'd 
like him. Jeeze ! Remember dat 
brown and white spotted one he 
kilt last year on Forrest Day? Da 
crowd like ta never stopt yelling!" 

Ringmaster Oswell retreated far- 



ther, as, under the bull's onslaught, 
a piece of concrete broke from the 
top rail, exposing the reinforcing 
rod within. "Fergus does like 
strange ones," he admitted. 

Stonecypher said, "Don't let the 
mane bother you. There's one of 
these long-haired Scotch cows in 
his ancestors. He's not really pur- 
ple. Just the way the light hits 'im." 

Oswell chewed lacquered finger- 
nails with steel dentures. His blood- 
shot eyes studied the spotted and 
speckled Appaloosa mules chasing 
around the pasture, but the sight 
failed to register on his brain. "The 
crowd likes a good show on De- 
pendence Day," he proclaimed. "I 
considered trying a fat Aberdeen 
Angus with artificial horns for 
laughs, but this may do as well. I 
must find some shade! I'll take him, 
Stonecypher, if fifteen hundred in 
gold is agreeable." 

"Sold," Stonecypher said. The 
word cracked in the middle. 

While the ringmaster, muttering 
about trying bulldogs sometime, re- 
tired to the narrow shadow of the 
dog house, the driver backed the 
truck to the ramp, Stonecypher 
opened the gate and waved his 
handkerchief. The bull charged 
into the truck, and the driver 
locked the heavy doors. 

From within his red burnoose, 
Oswell produced a clinking bag. 
"Fifteen hundred," he said. From 
other recesses, he withdrew docu- 
ments, notebooks, and a pencil. He 
said, "Here is a pass for you and 
one for any woman-subject you 
may wish to bring. You'll want to 
see your first bull on Dependence 
Day! And here is the standard re- 
lease absolving you of any damage 



82 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 



the bull may do. Oh, yes! His name 
and number?" 

"Number?" 

"Yes, his brand." 

"Not branded. Make it Number 
1, Name's Moe." 

Oswell chuckled. "Moe. Very 
good! Most breeders name them 
things like Chainlightning and 
Thunderbird. Your GE number?" 

"I'm not a Government Em- 
ployee." 

"You're not?" Oswell wheezed. 
"How unusual! Your colors? He'll 
wear your colors in his shoulder." 

"Yeah. Black." 

"Black?" 

"Dead black." 

Oswell, scribbling, managed a 
faint smile. "Sorry I can't accept 
that invitation to lunch." He strug- 
gled into the truck. "Hope this bull 
is brave in the ring. Nice antique 
old place you have here! I don't 
see a feed tower, but you surely 
don't use pasture — " The ringmas- 
ter's babble passed down the road 
with the truck. 

Stonecypher watched the ve- 
hicle descend the dangerous grade. 
He lifted his square hat from his 
black hair, dropped it on the 
ground, and crushed the reeds un- 
der a booted foot. 

The temporary house, a squat 
cubical structure, stood at the end 
of a spruce-lined path beside the 
ruin that a thrill party had made 
of the century-old farm house. The 
plastic screen squeaked when 
Stonecypher opened it. He stood 
on the white floor of the robot 
kitchen and dug a fifty dollar gold 
piece from the bag Oswell had 
given him. Glaring at the head of 
the woman with Liberty inscribed 



on her crown, he muttered, 
"Thirty pieces of gold." 

Catriona called, "Oswell's lucky 
he couldn't stay foah dinnah! Ah 
had the potassium cyanide all 
ready." 

Stonecypher passed through the 
diner door into a room containing 
more yellowed history books and 
agricultural pamphlets than eat- 
ing utensils. Catriona waited by the 
table. She held a large revolver in 
her right hand. 



HVTEHMEZZD 

STONECYPHER stood on Bay 
Knob, near the ruins of the old 
FM transmitter station, looking 
down at the Tennessee Lakes. 
Catriona sat behind him and held 
the revolver on her thigh. Stonecy- 
pher said, "I never see it but I 
wonder how it looked before the 
water." 

Before him, North Fork, an 
arm of Kings Lake, twisted across 
the Virginia line four and one-half 
miles away, while to Stonecypher's 
right, Boone Lake sparkled like a 
gigantic, badly drawn V. He did 
not look toward Surgoinsville Dam 
securing Kings Lake far to the 
west. 

The Tennessee Lakes were born 
in 1918 when Wilson Dam spanned 
the Tennessee River at Muscle 
Shoals, Alabama; but their growth 
was retarded for fifteen years, until 
an Act of Congress injected them 
with vitamins. Then the mile-long 
bastions of concrete crawled be- 
tween the ridges. Norris, Wheeler, 
Pickwick Landing, Guntersville, 
Watts Bar, Kentucky, Cherokee, 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 

Fort Henry, Boone, Sevier, Sur- 
goinsville — almost innumer- 
able dams blocked the rivers. The 
rivers stopped and overflowed. The 
creeks swelled into rivers. 

Congressional Committees in- 
vestigated, the Supreme Court 
tested- the dams against the Consti- 
tution, ethnologists and archeolo- 
gists hastily checked for Indian 
relics; and the dams, infused with 
youthful vigor, matured. Begin- 
ning with Norris, which backed up 
the Clinch and Powell Rivers to 
inundate 25,000 acres and displace 
3,000 families, the dams expanded 
mighty aquatic muscles. The Ten- 
nessee, the Little Tennessee, the 
Nolichucky, the Holston, the 
French Broad, the Watauga, the 
Hiwassee, the Little Pigeon — all 
the rivers spread their waters into 
lengthy, ragged lakes, changing the 
map of Tennessee more than any 
natural cataclysm, such as the great 
earthquake of 1811, had ever done. 
The Lakes provided jobs, electric 
power, flood control, soil conserva- 
tion, a fisherman's paradise, milder 
winters, cooler summers, and they 
covered all the really good farming 
land in the eastern part of the 
state. 

Gatriona loaded the revolver. Tt 
was an obsolete .357 Magnum with 
a 6J^2 inch barrel, and the cartridge 
cases of the metal-piercing bullets 
had a greenish sheen. "Now, put it 
in the holstah, and be ca'eful," 
Catriona said. 

Stonecypher wore the holster, a 
leather silhouette studded with 
two spring clips opening forward, 
on a belt and secured to his leg by 
a thong. Gingerly, he took the re- 
volver and slipped it under the 



83 

clips. "I've kept outa duels all my 
life," he said, "but, so long as it's 
for you, I don't much mind." 

"Ah'll mind if he kills you. You 
do like I tell you, and you can beat 
him. Why, mah best act in the 
How-To Cahnival was How to Win 
a Duel. Cou'se, they didn't know 
ah was really drawin' befoah the 
buzzah sounded. Why, ah used to 
set two plates ten yahds apaht, 
draw two revolvahs, and shoot 
both plates, all in foah-tenths of a 
second!" 

Stonecypher grinned. "Sorry I 
missed that carnival first time it 
came through here. I coulda seen 
you in that costume they poured on 
you, three years earlier." 

"Nevah mind the veiled compli- 
ments. Now, try it!" 

Stonecypher faced the target, a 
sheet of plastiboard roughly sawed 
to the shape of a man, and backed 
by a heap of earth removed from 
the new, as yet dry, pond in which 
they stood. Catriona pressed a small 
buzzer concealed in her palm. 
Stonecypher's big hand closed on 
the revolver butt, pushing the 
weapon up and forward. The 
sound of the shot rattled away over 
the mountain top. 

"That's good!" Catriona cried, 
consulting the sonic timer. "One 
and two-tenths seconds from buz- 
zah to shot!" 

"But I missed," Stonecypher pro- 
tested. "Look bad on tevee." 

"You'll hit him. Watch the re- 
coil next time." 

Stonecypher drew and fired a 
second wild shot. He snorted, "Con- 
found Westerns, anyhow!" 

"Weste'ns?" 

"Sure. That's where this duelin* 



84 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 




started. Used to, almost ever* movie 
or tevee was called a Western. Sort 
of a fantasy, because they were just 
slightly based on real history. They 
generally showed a feller in a flow- 
ered shirt, ridin' a Tennessee Walk- 
ing Horse, and shootin' a gun. 
Ever'body in these Westerns had a 
gun, and they all shot at each 
other. 

"The youngin's were hep on *em, 
so they all wore toy guns, and a 
whole generation grew up on 
Westerns. When they got big, they 
carried real guns. I've heard my 
great-uncle tell about it, how be- 
fore the Government built duel- 
pens and passed laws, you couldn't 
hardly cross the Lakes without run- 
nin' into a bunch of fools on water 
skis shootin' at each other." 



"You leave the histo'y books 
alone foah awhile," Catriona com- 
manded, "and practice. The ten- 
ants and ah'll tend to the wo'k. Try 
it loaded and empty. Hook this lit- 
tle buzzah to the timeah, and prac- 
tice. AhVe got to go see the 
chickens." 

" 'Bye, teacher." Stonecypher 
dropped the buzzer in his pocket 
and watched her vanish into the 
grove. He fired the remaining shots, 
nicking the target once. With the 
revolver holstered, he followed the 
path to the summer pasture. 



BELLY-DEEP in red clover, 
twenty-four cows, twenty-four 
calves, and twenty-four yearlings 
grazed or played in the shady field. 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 



85 



Stonecypher cupped his hands 
around his mouth and yelled, 
"Smart-calves! Smart-calves to 
school!" 

The entire herd turned sorrow- 
ful eyes on him. Seven of the calves 
and four of the yearlings trotted to 
the gate, which Stonecypher held 
open, and jostled out of the pasture. 
As the calves began to lie down 
under the trees, a white heifer-calf 
nuzzled Stonecyphcr"s hand and 
bawled, "Paaapy gyoing a fyightt?" 

"Yeah, he's goin' to fight/' Stone- 
cypher answered. "Your pappy's 
gone to the bullring. He suggested 
it, and made the choice himself. 
He's got real courage. You oughta 
all be proud of him." 

The calves bawled their pride. 
Including those remaining in the 
pasture, they presented a colorful 
variety of spots, specks, splotches, 
brawns, reds, blacks, and even occa- 
sional blue and greenish tinges. 
Stonecypher sat facing them from 
a stump. He said, "I'm sorta late 
for the lesson, today, so we'll get 
on with it. Some of this will be 
repetition for you yearlings, but it 
won't hurt. If you get too bored, 
there's corn and cottonseed meal 
in the trough, only be quiet about 
it. 

"Now. To look at you all, nobody 
would think you're the same breed 
of cattle; but you, and your mam- 
mys, and Moe are the only Atohmy 
cattle on Earth. It's usually hard 
to say exactly when a breed started ; 
but you all started a long, long 
time ago, on July 16, 1945, near 
Alamogordo, New Mexico, when 
they exploded the first Atomic 
Bomb." 

At mention of Atomic Bomb, 



who had succeeded the Bogger 
Man as a means of frightening 
children, one of the younger calves 
bawled. Her polled, brindled moth- 
er ran in ungainly fashion to the 
fence and mooed with great carry- 
ing power. 

"All right!" Stonecypher yelled. 
The cow closed her big mouth, but 
stayed by the gate. "Can't go by 
what you hear the tenants tell their 
kids," Stonecypher cautioned the 
calf. "Atomic Bomb is as dead as 
the tank and the battleship. 

"Now, like I was sayin', the sci- 
entists put Atomic Bomb on a hun- 
dred foot tower and blowed him 
up. There was a flash of fire, and 
an awful racket, and the blast 
raised up a lot of dirt and dust 
from the ground. All this dust 
achurnin' around in the cloud 
bumped into little bits of metal and 
stuff that was highly radioactive. 
That means, the basic atoms of 
matter had been thrown out of 
kilter, sorta deranged. The protons 
and electrons in an atom oughta 
be about equal for it to be stable, 
but these were shootin' off elec- 
trons, or beta particles, and givin* 
off something like powerful x-rays, 
called gamma rays, and things like 
that. 

"Anyhow, this radiation affected 
all the sand and bits of rock and 
dirt in that bomb cloud. This radia- 
tion is dangerous. Some of it will 
go right through several inches of 
lead. Enough'll kill you. Your an- 
cestors were ten miles or so from 
where Atomic Bomb went off. 

"They were just plain VVhiteface 
cattle. They weren't supposed to be 
there, but I reckon none of the sci- 
entists bothered to warn 'em. The 



86 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 



dust started settlin' all over your 
ancestors. In about a week, there 
were sores and blisters on their 
backs. The red hair dropped off. 
When it grew back, it was gray. 

"The scientists got real excited 
when they heard about it, 'cause 
they wanted to see how horrible 
they could make Atomic Bomb. So, 
they shipped fifty-nine cattle up to 
Oak Ridge. That was a Govern- 
ment town, a hundred miles south- 
west of here, where they made some 
of the stuff to put in Atomic Bomb. 
The University of Tennessee was 
runnin' an experimental farm 
there. They had donkeys, and pigs, 
and chickens, and other animals 
that they exposed to radioactivity. 
Then they killed 'em and cut 'em 
up to see what had happened. I 
know it's gruesome, but that's how 
it was. 

"The awful fact is, the scientists 
slaughtered more than half that 
original Atohmy herd for experi- 
ments. Some of the rest, they — uh 
— married. Wanted to see if the 
calves had two heads, or something; 
if radioactivity had speeded up the 
mutation rate. 

"Back then, they didn't under- 
stand much about mutation. Some 
claimed a litde radioactivity would 
cause it, some said a whole lot, and 
some said it wouldn't hurt a bit." 

"Whaa mootyaaonn?" asked the 
calf which was not yet assured of 
the extinction of Atomic Bomb. 

"Well, you-all are all mutations. 
I've told you how life starts from 
one cell. This cell has thread-like 
things in it called chromosomes, 
and the chromosomes are made up 
of things called genes. Mutations, 
sort of unexpected changes, can take 



place in either the chromosomes 
or the genes. You see, when this one 
cell starts dividing, every gene 
makes a copy of itself; but, some- 
times, the copy is a little different 
from the original. Lots of things, 
like x-rays and ultraviolet rays, 
heat, chemicals, disease, can cause 
this. Radioactivity had caused 
mutation in some experiment, so 
the scientists were anxious to see 
what happened with these cattle. 

"Genes determine the way an 
animal develops. Two mutant genes 
can start reactions that end up as 
a man with one leg, or maybe as a 
bull with the intelligence of an 
eight-year-old man. Lots of muta- 
tions are recessive. They may be 
carried along for generations. But, 
when two like mutant genes come 
together in reproduction, the ani- 
mal is bound to be something dif- 
ferent, the way you eleven calves 
are. 

"Now. The scientists watched the 
Atohmy cattle for fifteen or twen- 
ty years, and nothin' much hap- 
pened. They started sayin* radio- 
activity wasn't dangerous, and a 
man could walk into a place right 
after Atomic Bomb went off, and 
it wouldn't matter. They should be 
here to see the mess in Japan today. 
All the time, though, I think the 
cattle were changing. It may have 
been in little things like the length 
of hair, or the shape of an eyeball, 
or the curve of a horn, so the sci- 
entists couldn't tell without they 
made exact measurements all the 
time. 

"Then, a bull-calf was born. He 
had shaggy black hair, and his 
horns grew in a spiral like a ram's. 
Some scientists said, 'I told you so! 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 



87 



It speeded the mutation rate!' 

"Others said, 'He's a natural 
mutation, or else, a throw-back to 
prehistoric wild cattle. It happens 
in every breed. Atomic Bomb had 
nothing to do with it.' 

"They married the bull, and then 
they "fixed to slaughter 'ini to see 
what his insides was like. The bull 
fooled 'em, though. He came down 
with contagious pleuro- pneumonia, 
the first case in years, 'cause it was 
supposed to have been wiped out 
in this country away back in the 
Nineteenth Century. They had to 
cremate the bull for fear the disease 
would spread. Ever' one of the 
calves were normal Whitefaces. 

"Finally, the nineteen Atohmy 
cattle that were left were put up 
for sale. My great-grandfather, 
Cary McPheeter, bought 'em and 
shipped 'em here to Bays Moun- 
tain. He's the man started this farm 
where there was nothin' but rattle- 
snakes, and trees, and rocks." 

"Whyy theyea selll um?" a red 
roan calf interrupted. 

"Well, they sold 'em 'cause Oak 
Ridge had been condemned. That 
was several years after the German 
Civil War. It was peace time, for 
a change, and folks were sick of 
Atomic Bomb. Anyhow, new, mod- 
ern plants for makin' the stuff had 
been built in secret places a lot 
easier to defend. The women were 
cryin' for more automatic kitchens, 
so the Bureau of Interior Hydro- 
electric Power ( that's the name 
Federal Power, Inc., went by then) 
put another dam across the Clinch 
River below Norris. Bush Lake cov- 
ered up Oak Ridge. 

"There wasn't much mutation, 
except for color, in you Atohmy cat- 



tle, till seven years ago when your 
pappy, Moe, was born. I remem- 
ber — " 

A hoarse excited voice shouted 
from a distance. "Thrill party!" it 
cried. "Thrill party!" 

STONECYPHER leaped off the 
stump, stamped his right foot 
to restore circulation, and yelled on 
the run, "That's all today! Stay 
under the trees!" 

He loped along the pasture fence 
and across the makeshift target 
range. Two tenants, Teddy and 
Will, stood on the dirt heap with 
pitchforks in their hands. Over Bay 
Knob, an old Model 14 butterflier 
hovered on vibrating wings. Sloppy 
white letters on the sides of the air- 
craft spelled such slang expressions 
as, "Flash the MAGNETS," "Su- 
percOlossalSoniC Flap ship," and 
"Redheads amble OTHer canop." 

An impossible number of mid- 
dleschool-age boys bulged from the 
cabin windows. Methodically, they 
dumped trash and garbage over the 
transmitter station ruins. The but- 
terflier wheeled and flapped over 
the pasture. Red clover bent and 
writhed in the artificial wind from 
the ornithopter wings. Cows bawled 
and ran wild. Calves fell over each 
other. 

Stonecypher jumped the fence. 
He wrested the revolver from the 
holster. "Clear out, or I'll shoot!" 
he howled. 

Voices spilled from the butter- 
flier. "He got a handgun!" 

"Dis ain't legal!" 

"Whatcha say, tall, bones, and 
ugly?" 

Stonecypher aimed the Magnum 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 



at the shaven head in the pilot's 
seat. The boys looked faint. Agi- 
tated air thundered as the butter- 
flier lifted straight up two hundred 
feet and glided away in the direc- 
ton of Surgoinsville Dam. 

Teddy and Will stood by with 
pitchforks unrelaxed. Will spat a 
globule of tobacco juice. "The 
thangs these here psychologists git 
made law!" he sneered. "You want 
me to make out a Thrill Damage 
Claim?" 

"No, Will," Stonecypher said, 
"just deduct it from taxes." 

Teddy looked at the revolver and 
said, "Everybody oughta take guns 
to them crazy youngin's. Reckon 
you'll git into trouble?" 

"No. It's an empty antique. 
That's legal. You guys did all 
right. Let the calves back in, huh?" 

The tenants left by the gate, and, 
with a minimum of driving, urged 
the calves into the pasture. Stone- 
cypher watched the men pass 
through the grove. Although the 
tenants undoubtedly recognized the 
peculiarities of the calves, they 
never mentioned them. Since the 
late 1700's, through Revolution, 
Civil War, automobile, the Depart- 
ment of Internal Revenue, the mul- 
tiple bureaus that had controlled 
the Lakes, the Moon rocket, and 
the expedition to Pluto, these people 
had remained suspiciously inter- 
ested in strangers, suspicious of in- 
door plumbing, doubtful of the 
Government, quick-tempered, and 
as immovable as Chimney Top. 
They had exchanged little except 
log and frame houses for concrete. 
The tenants, not really tenants, 
had been squatting on Bays Moun- 
tain when Cary McPheeter bought 



the farm ; and there they stayed. 

Stonecypher vaulted the fence. 
Catriona, with hands firmly plant- 
ed on hips, stood in the dry pond. 
Stonecypher said, "If I just knew 
what these thrill parties think 
they're up to, it might help." 

Catriona shook her head of red- 
yellow hair. "Nevah mind them. 
Ah told you to practice shootin*, 
but the minute ah turn mah back, 
you run off and staht teachin' those 
calves ! You've got to practice, 
Stony ! You've nevah done any 
shootin', and L. Dan's killed ten 
people. Ah — " 

"Watch the tears, or you'll have 
red and green eyes," Stonecypher 
said. Clumsily, he ejected the shells 
and reloaded the revolver. He oc- 
cupied two seconds in drawing and 
firing. The bullet struck dirt a yard 
to the left of the target. 



SONATA 

A SHORT vicious thunderstorm 
lashed Bays Mountain on the 
afternoon of July 3. As the storm 
passed, a blood-red butterflier, with 
a pusher propeller in the tail and 
a plastic bull head on the nose, de- 
scended in the young Sudan grass. 
Stonecypher dropped the saw — he 
had been clearing away a beech 
limb the storm left in the aban- 
doned paddock — and strolled to 
greet Ringmaster A. Oswell. 

"Stonecypher !" the ringmaster 
announced. "That storm almost 
caught us!" Oswell's stainless steel 
teeth clacked, and the breezes 
trailing the thunderclouds bal- 
looned his orange silk kimono. "I 
never liked these butterfliers. 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 



89 



They're too slow, and that swoop- 
ing motion! Five hundred miles per 
hour may seem fast to a man your 
age; but in my day, back before 
petroleum was classified as arma- 
ment, we had jets! Real speed!" 

"Come on up to the house, ring- 
master," Stonecypher invited. "I'll 
mix up some dextrose and citric 
acid." 

"No, no time," the fat man 
panted. "Only time to see you about 
that bull you sold me. The storm 
took a limb of your beech tree ! Al- 
most the only one left, I suppose. 
About that bull, Stonecypher, you 
know I was a bit hesitant when I 
bought him, but my driver talked 
me into it. I'm so disappointed I 
had him drafted immediately!" 

"But, what — " Stonecypher at- 
tempted to ask. 

"The young woman there in the 
butterfiier is a much better driver 
and pilot," Oswell babbled. "I 
wouldn't have believed it of a 
woman! She weighs a good ninety- 
eight pounds, too! That bull — he 
has changed completely since we 
put him under the stands. He eats 
well, but he shows no spirit at all. 
Tomorrow is the big day, Stone- 
cypher! I can't disappoint the 
crowd! I thought he might be sick, 
but the vet says not. That bull let 
the vet come into the cage and 
made absolutely no attempt to kill 
him!" 

"But does Fergus — " 

"Fergus's manager saw the bull! 
He's all for it. Fergus made an ex- 
tremely poor showing on Memorial 
Day, and the manager thinks this 
odd bull would provide a real 
comeback! I advised against it. This 
heat is terrible! The storm didn't 



cool the air at all." 

Stonecypher maneuvered the 
perspiring ringmaster into the 
shade of the beech. He said, *T 
wanta do the fair thing with you, 
ringmaster, so I'll give you a guar- 
antee, in writing if you want. If 
that bull's not the bravest ever 
fought in Highland Bullring, I give 
you double-money-back." 

Oswell's face wobbled in a tenta- 
tive smile. He counted his stubby 
fingers. "Double-money-back?" 

"Yeah. I wanta get into the busi- 
ness. My grandfather used to sell 
bulls. Then my father came along, 
and he wouldn't sell a one." 

"Yes. Yes, I once tried to reason 
with him, but — " 

"He had funny ideas," Stonecy- 
pher pressed his advantage. "I nev- 
er did understand the old man my- 
self. He used to lecture me on some- 
thing he called the Man-Animal 
War. He said one of the worst 
things in the war was the thousands 
of bulls that had been tortured to 
death." 

"Peculiar idea. Of course — " 

"He claimed bullfights slipped 
up on this country. Back when it 
wasn't legal, they spaded up the 
ground real good. There were 
movies, and books, and magazines, 
and foreign broadcasts, all ravin' 
about how brave and noble it was 
for a bunch of men to worry and 
torture a stupid animal like a bull, 
till he couldn't hardly hold his head 
up, and then run a sword in *im." 

"Naturally, you — " 

"I don't know how many times 
he told me a bull had more brains 
than a horse, but less then a jack- 
ass. He said bullfightin' wasn't a 
sport, even if the bull got a man 



90 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 



sometimes; and he had the idea the 
worst thing was the four or five 
horses, that ever' bull killed, took 
with 'im. They had some bloodless 
bullfights in California, and the nut 
colonies out there like it so good, 
first thing you know, we really had 
it. It came to East Tennessee 'cause 
this was one of the biggest cattle- 
raisin' sections, before the Lakes 
took the grazin' land." 

"Surely, Stonecypher, you — " 

"My father always claimed if 
the bullfighters were near as brave 
as they said, they'd take on a really 
intelligent animal sometimes, like 
a man-eatin* tiger. He even thought 
a man was mentalill to fight a bull 
in the first place." Stonecypher 
grinned. "No, you don't need to 
worry about me, ringmaster. I hate 
to admit it, but the old man is the 
one who was mentalill." 

Oswell revealed all of his steel 
teeth in a broad smile. "You had 
me worried!" he wheezed. "Now, 
your offer." 

"I'll go even better" Stonecy- 
pher said, "just to show how set I 
am on get tin* back in the business. 
If Moe's not brave, I got two 
yearlin's you can have for free." 

"How generous ! You've reas- 
sured me, Stonecypher. I have con- 
fidence, now, that the show will be 
a great success! I must go! You 
have no conception of the life a 
ringmaster leads before a fight. I 
won't require a written guarantee. 
I trust you, Stonecypher! See you 
tomorrow, I hope! I never liked 
July. If the Government would only 
make more Lakes, it might cool 
off! I hope—" 

The whir of the red butterflier's 
wings terminated Oswell's dis- 



course. With a face like a gored 
bullkiller, Stonecypher watched the 
ringmaster's departure. Another 
butterflier hovered above the 
mountain. This one was green and 
gold with the canopy pushed back 
and a glint of twin lenses in the 
cockpit. 

Will appeared at Stonecypher's 
side. He spat in a long arc and said, 
"That's a new one, ain't it, peepm* 
from a butterfly? I reckon L. Dan 
never got kilt in that other duel 
like I hoped he would. You want 
us to git you outa this, Stone- 
cypher?" 

"No, Will." 

"We can see you git to the 
Smokies. The Givernment'll never 
find you down in there." 

"I'll be all right, Will. If he does 
kill me, take care of Catriona. And 
look after the calf records." 

"Sure thang." 

Stonecypher walked slowly to- 
ward Catriona's open-topped sun- 
bathing tent. 



UU.'ii; MACAHHE 

DUELMASTER R. Smith ad- 
justed his black tarn. "Do not 
touch your shooting hand to your 
weapon until the buzzer sounds," 
he instructed. "Otherwise, the 
weapon may be carried as you wish. 
At the slightest infringement of the 
rules, a robot gun will kill you. If 
you have any elaborate last words, 
say them now; because the pen is 
soundproof." He laughed an obvi- 
ously much rehearsed laugh. 

L. Dan wore orange tights today, 
but no armor, since the rules re- 
quired deulists to present naked 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 



91 



torsos for probable bullets. Stone- 
cypher faced the duelmaster. "I 
reckon this room is the only place a 
man really has free speech," he 
said. "You're deaf, and can't see 
good enough to read lips, and nic 
or him will soon be dead. 

"I don't believe in this duelin'. 
It gives a man who's wrong a 
chance to kill one who's right. A 
man shouldn't oughta have to die 
because he's right. Just like ever*- 
thing else in this Manly Age. It's 
painful. That oughta be our motto, 
More Pain, just like in the Ma- 
chine Age it was More Gadgets At 
Any Cost." 

"Why don't you go on tevee?" 
Dan jeered. "She'll soon forget you, 
farmer." 

Stonecypher's words rolled over 
the hobbyist. "I reckon the Manly 
Age came because a man started 
thinkin' he wasn't much of a man 
any more. He was just as fast as his 
car, and just as strong as his elec- 
tric lawn mower. And a loud mi- 
nority of the women was daimin' 
they could do anything a man 
could, and maybe better. So the 
men started playin' football in 
shorts and huntm' each other on 
game preserves, and the women 
went back to the kitchen and bed- 
room. Lots of things that went on 
undercover come out in the open. 
Cockfights, dogfights, coon-on-a- 
log, duels, stallion fights, bullfights. 

"And people like you, L. Dan, 
went on Hvin'. You got no right to 
live. You don't do any useful work. 
The Earth is slowly starvin', and 
you take the grub out of some fel- 
ler's mouth who might could help 
a little. That's why — " 

"Time !" announced the duel- 



master with his face close to a large 
clock on the wall. He opened the 
door. Two men carrying a body on 
a stretcher passed. The body had 
four bullet wounds in it. 

Dan said, "That drivel gives me 
a real reason to kill you, farmer. 
I'll be good to her for a few days." 

As prearranged, Dan took the ' 
right branch of the corridor and 
Stonecypher, the left. A hooded 
man gave Stonecypher the Mag- 
num revolver and shut him into a 
space resembling a windowed closet 
with a door on either side. Stone- 
cypher secured the revolver in the 
clip holster. His bony hands formed 
knotted fists. 

The pen door slid back. Stone- 
cypher stepped into a room thirty 
by ninety feet with three bullet- 
marred concrete walls and a fourth 
wall of bulletproof glass, behind 
which sat the ghoulish audience. 
Dan, crouched and with his pistol 
in the crook of his left elbow, ad- 
vanced. His right hand fluttered an 
inch from the pistol butt. 

Stonecypher, grotesque with thin 
chest exposed and overall bib 
wrapped around belt, waited. Two 
photoelectric robot machine gun^ 
followed each movement of the 
duelists. A buzzer sounded. Dan's 
index finger failed to reach the trig- 
ger, for a guardian machine gun 
removed the hobbyist's head in a 
short efficient burst. The noise of a 
louder buzzer punctuated the exe- 
cution. 

When the soundproof inner door 
of the closet opened, the hooded 
man, who had a pair of crossed pis- 
tols tattooed on the back of his righl 
hand, said, "He was too anxious." 

"Yeah," Stonecypher grunted. 



92 



ROBERT ERNE5T GILBERT 



The man watched Stonecypher 
pass out to the street. Stonecypher 
snapped up the bib of his overalls. 
An extremely rare bird, a robin, 
hopped from his path and con- 
tinued a fruitless search for insects. 
Stonecypher walked down Watauga 
Street until the pavement vanished 
under the brownish-green water of 
Kings Lake. 

Catriona squealed when she saw 
him. Ignoring all Correct Proce- 
dures, she almost knocked him 
down and attempted to smother 
him. "Ah told you it just took prac- 
tice!" she blubbered. "You did it, 
Stony!" 

With muffled mumbles, Stone- 
cypher managed to put her in the 
Tenite canoe. The few people along 
the quay, who had witnessed the 
illegal manner of their meeting, 
watched with shock, or with in- 
credulity, or with guarded admira- 
tion. When they saw that Stonecy- 
phcr's hand rested on a holstered 
revolver, they lost their curiosity. 

Wading, Stonecypher shoved the 
canoe off and hopped aboard. As 
he took up the paddle, his hand 
trailed in the water and released 
the small buzzer that had made pos- 
sible Catriona's best carnival act. 



FOR July, the afternoon was cool. 
Blue-gray clouds drifted before 
larger dirty white masses. To the 
southwest opened the mile-wide 
mouth of Horse Creek; and, far 
beyond, the great blue pyramid of 
Chimney Top Mountain stood de- 
fiantly above Sevier Lake. The 
world seemed water broken only 
by partly submerged hills and 
mountains. 



Stonecypher gazed across the 
Lake at Bays Mountain and at the 
five Cement Islands apparen tly 
floating against that backdrop. 
Softly, he said, "Some folks call the 
big one Martyrs Island. There's a 
marble pillar right in the middle. 
Nobody knows who put it there, 
and the Government never both- 
ered to knock it down. I reckon the 
poison ivy's covered it by now, but 
I went and read the inscription, 
once, when I was a boy. It says: 

"They moved me off the Powell 
River. 

They covered my farm with 
water. 

I bought me another near Beans 
Station. 

The water covered it. 

I was getting old, but I built at 
Galloway Mill. 

When they flooded that, I gave 
up and lived in Kingsport 

I will not move again." 

The canoe bounded over the 
choppy water, one hundred feet 
above the silted streets of the 
flooded city of Kingsport. Stone- 
cypher said, "The time I was there, 
you could still find a few copter- 
trooper helmets and old cankered 
shells. Couple of years back, a diver 
brought up two skulls off shore." 

Catriona's eyes remained moist, 
but she smiled. Her teeth were 
beautiful. "It'll be all rahght, Stony. 
You can't change the wo'ld in one 
day. You did fine, and Moe will 
too." 

"I told you to stay at the bull- 
ring," Stonecypher said. 

"Ah couldn't watch that! And 
those puny, little, mousy women 
stare and talk about me, because 
theah's a little meat on mah cah- 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 



93 



cass. Oswell said Moe would be 
last, anyhow. Ah was so wo'ied 
about you, ah couldn't sit still." 

Only a few boats, mainly those 
of piscatorial maniacs, were on the 
lake. Stonecypher glared at them 
and muttered, "I hope I did right 
by Moe. He wanted to fight. May- 
be, Catriona, if I'd had you when 
I found out he could talk — not just 
mimic — I'd of raised him different. 
Maybe I shouldn't have shown him 
that bullfight movie, but I won- 
dered what the only hull to see a 
bullfight from outside the ring 
thought about it. 

"That led him to wantin' to 
know all about the Man-Animal 
War. I told him the best 1 could, 
how one of a man's basic drives is 
to exterminate, ever' since prehis- 
toric times when he did in the wooly 
mammoth and rhinoceros. The do- 
do, quagga, passenger pigeon, great 
auk, aurochs, Key deer, bison, Af- 
rican elephant, gorilla, tiger — 
there's an awful list. Why, five hun- 
dred species of mammal ilone, 
have become extinct lines 1 A. D., 
*bout four hundred of them since 
1850. A inan'll even kill oil" oilier 
men, like the Neandeiih.ik and the 
Tasmanians!" StOQCCypher resin I 
the paddle and grinned, faintly, at 
Catriona reclining in the bow. "I 
guess you've heard this before." 

"Go rahght ahead, Stony," Catri- 
ona sighed. "Ah like to heah yoah 
speech. It's the only time you really 
get angry, and you look so fine and 
noble." 

"Yeah. Well. I told Moe how a 
man exterminates useful or harm- 
less species, and then he lets dan- 
gerous ones. like rats, eat him out 
of house and home. Course, I ex- 



plained this was just kinship. Folks 
used to argue man come from a 
monkey, or from spontaneous com- 
bustion, or something. Now we got 
fossil proof he's not like anything 
anybody ever saw. He's a case of 
straight line development all the 
way back to the first mammal, a 
sort of rat." 

The canoe glided past Highland 
Pier. Every type of small water- 
craft, from a punt, through an 
electric motorboat, to a sloop, had 
docked. More boats lined the shore 
on either side of the pier. The fly- 
ing field contained so many butter- 
fliers and copters that there seemed 
no possibility of any of them taking 
off. Human voices welled in a mob 
roar from the great open cylinder 
of the bullring. A huge banner 
draped on die curving white wall 
proclaimed, in ten-foot letters: 

DEPENDENCE DAY 

BULLFIGHT 

HONOR THE GREAT 

GOVERNMENT ON WHICH 

WE DEPEND 

SIX BULLS— THREE KILLERS 

Stonecypher ran the canoe 
aground in a patch of dead weeds, 
exposed by a slight lowering of the 
lake level, and helped Catriona 
over the meks that lined the bank. 
He said, "I told Moe other things 
men do to animals. All the labora- 
tory butchery, done because it 
would be cruel to treat a man like 
that, but it's all right with a ani- 
mal, like takin' out a dog's brains 
and lettin' 'im live. I told him about 
huntin', how the kudu become ex- 
tinct 'cause a bunch of fools wanted 
to see who could kill the one with 



94 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 



the biggest horns. 

"I told him the things done to 
domestic animals. Dehornin', emas- 
culating brandin', slaughterin* with 
sledge hammers and butcher 
knives, keepin' 'em in filthy barns. 
A man tells hisself he's superior to 
other animals. If he does somethin' 
bad, he uses words like inhuman, 
brutal, animal instincts, instead of 
admittin* it's just typical behavior. 
And the psychologists take some 
animal, say a dog, and put him in 
a maze, something the dog never 
saw before. If the dog don't run 
the maze in two seconds flat, they 
say he's a pretty stupid animal. He 
just operates ou instinct, but they 
can't say how instinct operates. 
They'll have a time explainin' 
Moe's instincts. 

"I reckon the American bison 
made Moe madder than anything. 
They lulled the bison off, 'cept for 
protected herds, in the Nineteenth 
Century. A hundred years later, the 
herds had got pretty big, so they 
declared open season on bison. No 
more bison." 

A recorded voice growled, "No 
guns permitted in ring. Deposit gun 
in slot. No guns permitted in ring." 

Stonecypher moved his permit in 
ineffectual passes before the elec- 
tric eye. He shrugged, dropped the 
revolver into the slot, and left his 
thumb print. Catriona displayed the 
passes Ringmaster Oswell had given 
them. The teveer blinked, and the 
gate granted admission. They rode 
the escalator to the sixth tier and 
squirmed through pandemonium 
to their seats. 

The male portion of the crowd 
wore every possible style and color 
of dress, in complete emancipation 



from the old business suit uniform, 
but the women wore sober false- 
bosomed sundresses and expressed 
excitement in polite chirps. Stone- 
cypher pressed his mouth against 
Catriona's ear and whispered 
through the din, "You got to un- 
derstand, Cat, whatever happens, 
Moe wanted it He says he can 
scare some killers into givin* up 
bullfights and maybe help stop it." 

"He'll do fine, Stony." 

Several spectators stopped vent- 
ing their wrath on the unfortunate 
man in the ring to gawk at the 
couple. Catriona's unorthodox 
physique aroused sufficient amaze- 
ment; but, in addition, Stonecy- 
pher gave her the front seat and 
took the rear one, the correct place 
for a woman, himself. 

Below, through a rain of plasti- 
bottles and rotten eggs, a tired man 
walked to the barrier which Oswell 
advertised as the only wooden 
fence in seven states. Behind the 
killer, a small electric tractor 
dragged out the bloody carcass of 
a bull. 

A gasping, gibbering little man 
grabbed Stonecypher's arm and 
yelped, "Ulard is the clumsiest kill- 
er, he ran the sword in three times, 
and the kid with the dagger had to 
stick twice before they finished, Big 
Dependence Day Bullfight my jet! 
This is the wont in years, Fergus 
made the only clean kill all after- 
noon, and I flew every one of 
eighteen hundred miles myself to 
see it, this last bull better be good!" 
The little man waved his bag of 
rotten eggs. 

Although the bullfight followed 
the basic procedures established by 
Francisco Romero in the Spain of 



THY ROCKS AND RiLLS 



95 



1700, changes had occurred, in- 
cluding the elimination of all Span- 
ish words from the vocabulary of 
the spectacle since the unpleasant 
dispute with the Spanish Empire 
twenty years before. The gaudy 
costumes worn by participants had 
been replaced by trunks and sneak- 
ers. 

A purring grader smoothed the 
sand. The crowd quieted, except 
for those near the box of Ringmas- 
ter Oswell. They suggested in ob- 
scene terms that their money be re- 
funded. A trumpet recording 
blared. A scarlet door, inscribed, 
"Moe of Bays Mountain Farm," 
opened. The crowd awaited the 
first wild rush of the bull. It failed 
to materialize. 



GRAND FINALE 

SLOWLY, Moe came through 
the doorway. Above, on a plat- 
form inside the barrier, stood a 
gray-haired man who stuck identi- 
fying, streamered darts into bovine 
shoulders. I lis hand swept down, 
carrying Stone-cypher's chosen col- 
ors, black. 

Moe's walk upsei the man's tim- 
ing. His arm moved too soon. Moe's 
front hooves left the ground. Horns 
hooked. The gray-haired man 
screamed and dropped ihc dart. 
With a spike of horn through his 
arm, between bone and biceps, he 
gyrated across the barrier. He 
screamed a second time before 
cloven hooves slashed across his 
body. 

The crowd inhaled, then cheered 
the unprecedented entrance. Kill- 



er Fergus's team stood rigid, not 
comprehending. Then men dashed 
through shielded openings in the 
barrier, yelling and waving pink 
and yellow capes to draw the bull 
from his victim. 

Moe ignored the distraction, 
trotted nonchalantly to the center 
of the ring, and turned his bulging 
head to examine the spectators jab- 
bering at his strange appearance. 
The short horns, the round skull, 
the white-banded eyes, the mane 
that seemed slightly purple under 
the cloudy sky, and the exagger- 
ated slope from neck to rump that 
made the hind legs too short — to- 
gether they amounted to a ton of 
muscle almost like a bull. "Where'd 
you trap it, Oswell ?" someone 
near the ringmaster's box yelled. 

Forgetting the mess Illard had 
made with the previous bull, the 
crowd commented. "It's the last of 
the bison!" 
"He's poiple! Lookit! Poiple!" 
"The bull of the woods!" 
"Howya like 'im, Fergus?" 
Killer Fergus posed behind the 
barrier and studied his specialty, an 
odd bull, Two stickers, Neel and 
Tomas, flourished capes to test the 
bull's charge, with Neel chanting, 
"Come on, bull! Come on, bull! 
Come on! Bull, bull, bull!" 

Moe did not charge. He moved, 
in a speculative walk, toward the 
chanting Neel who tantali?ed with 
the cape and retreated with shuf- 
fling steps. The charge, when it 
came, occurred almost too fast for 
sight. Neel wriggled on the horns, 
.struck the sand, and the horns 
lifted him again. He smashed 
against the barrier. Tomas threw 
his cape over the bull's face. The 



96 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 



left horn pinned the cape to 
Tomas's naked chest over the 
heart. 

Moe retired to the center of the 
ring and bellowed at the crowd, 
which, delirious from seeing hu- 
man blood, applauded. Blood cov- 
ered Moe's horns, dripped through 
the long hair on his neck, and 
trickled down between bis eyes. 

Quavering helpers removed the 
bodies. The first lancer, livid and 
trembling, rode a blindfolded 
horse into the ring. "He'll fix this 
horse!" the crowd slavered. "We'll 
see guts this time!" 

Moe charged. The lancer backed 
his mount against the barrier and 
gripped his weapon, a stout pike. 
Sand sprayed like water as Moe 
swerved. On the left side of the 
horse, away from the menacing 
pike, Moe reared. The lancer left 
the saddle. A tangle of naked 
limbs thrashed across the wooden 
fence and thudded against the 
wall of the stands. 

Twenty-five thousand people 
held their breaths. The blindfolded 
horse waited with dilated nostrils 
and every muscle vibrating in ter- 
ror. Moe produced a long red 
tongue and licked the horse's jaw. 

Fergus dispersed the tableau. 
Red-haired, lean, and scarred with 
many past gorings, the popular 
killer stalked across the sand drag- 
ging his cape and roaring incom- 
prehensible challenges. In the 
stands, the cheer leaders of the Fer- 
gus Fanclub lead a welcoming yell. 
"Yeaaaa, Fergus! Fergus! Fergus! 
Rah, rah, rah!" 

Moe wandered through the help- 
ers trying to distract him from the 
hone and looked at the killer. Fer- 



gus stamped his foot, shook the 
cape, and called, "Bull! Come on! 
Charge!" Moe completely circled 
the killer, who retired in disgust 
when another lancer rode into the 
ring. "Stick him good!" Fergus di- 
rected. 

The pike pointed at the great 
muscles of Moe*s back, as the bull 
charged. Moe's head twisted in a 
blur of violence. Teeth clamped on 
the shaft behind the point. Too 
surprised to let go, the lancer fol- 
lowed his weapon from the saddle. 
He released his hold when Moe 
walked on him. 

Like some fantastic dog stealing 
a fresh bone, the bull trotted 
around the ring, tail high and pike 
in mouth. The crowd laughed. 
Wild-eyed men carried out the 
trampled lancer. 

A third, and extremely reluctant, 
lancer reined his horse through the 
gate. A pike in the mouth of a ton 
of beef utterly unnerved the man. 
He stood in the saddle and jumped 
over the barrier where a rain of rot- 
ten eggs from the booing fans spat- 
tered him thoroughly. 



71 N UNINJURED bull pawed 
i\ alone in the sand when the 
trumpet recording announced the 
end of the lancers* period. The 
crowd noises softened to a buzz of 
speculation, questions, and com- 
ment, as the realization that weird 
events had been witnessed slowly 
penetrated that collective mind. 
The bull had not touched a horse, 
no pike had jabbed the bull, and 
five men had been killed or in- 
jured. 

"Great Government!" a clear 



THY ROCKS AND RILLS 



97 



voice swore, "That ain't no bull, 
it's a monster!" This opinion came 
from a sticker in Illard's team. Fer- 
gus attempted to persuade the man 
to help, since both of Fergus's stick- 
ers were dead. Part of the crowd 
agreed with the sticker's thought, 
for people began moving furtively 
to the exits with cautious glances 
at the animal in the ring. They, of 
course, could not know that the 
bull had been trained, with rubber- 
tipped pikes and dummies, in every 
phase of the bullfight; that he 
knew the first, and only, law of 
staying alive in the ring, "Charge 
the man and not the cloth." 

The clouds that had obscured 
the sky all day formed darker 
masses tinted with pink to the east, 
and the black dot of a turkey buz- 
zard wheeled soaring in the gloom. 
Carrying, in either hand, a barbed 
stick sparkling with plastic stream- 
ers, Fergus walked into the ring. 
His assistants cautiously flanked 
him with capes. 

Moe dropped the pike and 
charged in the approved manner of 
a bull. Fergus raised the sticks high 
and brought them down on the 
humped back, although the back 
was not there. The sticks dropped 
in the sand. 

As the killer leaped aside in the 
completion of a reflex action, a 
horn penetrated the seat of his 
trunks. The Fergus Fanclub 
screamed while their hero dangled 
in ignominy from the horn. Moe 
ignored the flapping, frantic capes. 
The killer gingerly gripped a horn 
in either hand and tried to lift him- 
self off. Gently, Moe lowered his 
head and deposited the man beside 
an opening. Fergus scrabbled to 



safety like a rat to a hole. 

Four helpers with capes occupied 
the ring. When they saw death ap- 
proaching on cloven hooves, two of 
them cleared the fence. The third 
received a horn beside his back- 
bone and tumbled into the fourth. 
A dual scream, terrible enough to 
insure future nightmares, echoed 
above the screeching of the crowd. 
Moe tossed the bodies again and 
again across the bloody sand. 

Silence slithered over the High- 
land Bullring and over a scene 
reminiscent of the ring's bloody 
parent, the Roman Arena. Men 
sprawled gored, crushed, and dead 
across the sand. A section of the 
blood-specked barrier leaned splin- 
tered and cracked, almost touching 
the concrete wall. Unharmed, Fer- 
gus stood on one side of the battle- 
ground, Illard on the other. 

Fergus reached over the wooden 
fence for red flag and sword. 
Turning his back on the heaving 
Moe, who stood but ten feet be- 
hind, the killer faced the quaking 
flesh that was Ringmaster Oswell, 
high up in the official box. The 
killer's voice shook, but the bitter 
satire came through the sound of 
departing boats and aircraft. Fer- 
gus said, "I dedicate this bull to 
Ringmaster Oswell who has pro- 
vided for us this great Dependence 
Day Bullfight in honor of the Great 
Government on which we all de- 
pend." He turned and faced the 
bull. 

Moe, for once, rushed the red 
flag, the only thing that made bull- 
fights possible. His great shoulders 
presented a fair target for the 
sword. 

Fergus, perhaps the only bull- 



98 



ROBERT ERNEST GILBERT 



fighter ever to be gored in the 
brain, died silently. The sword 
raked a shallow gash long Moe's 
loin. 

In the sixth tier of the stands, 
saliva drooled from the slack 
mouth of the little man seated be- 
side Stonccypher. "Now's your 
chance, Illard!" the man squalled. 
"Be a hero! The last of the bull- 
fighters! Kill him, Illard!" 

Illard walked on shaking legs 
over bodies he did not see. He was 
short, for a killer, and growing 
bald. He picked up the sword Fer- 
gus had dropped, looked into the 
gory face of the bull, and toppled 
in the sticky sand. The sword quiv- 
ered point-first beside his body. 



recessional 

A WIND whipped down into 
Highland Bullring. Riding the 
wind, blacker than the clouds, the 
inquisitive turkey buzzard glided 
over the rim of the stands with air 
whistling through the spatulate 
feathers of rigid wings. The buz- 
zard swooped a foot above Moe's 
horns and soared swiftly over the 
opposite side of the ring. 

That started the panic, although 
Moe's charge accentuated it. He 
crashed into the sagging section of 
the barrier. Cloven hooves scraped 
the wooden inclined plane, and 
Moe stopped with front feet in the 
first tier of the stands. He bellowed. 

The bull killed only one specta- 
tor, a man on whom he stepped. 
The hundreds who died killed 
themselves or each other. They 



leaped from the towering rim of 
the ring, and they jammed the exits 
in writhing heaps. 

Moe's precarious stance slipped. 
Slowly, he slid back into the ring, 
where Ringmaster Oswell, quiver- 
ing in a red toga, gestured from 
the darkness under the stands. The 
fat man squeaked and waved. 
Moe's charge embodied the gen- 
uine fighting rage of a maddened 
bull. The scarlet door closed be- 
hind him. 

Stonecypher, with fists bloody 
and a heap of unconscious fear- 
crazed spectators piled before him, 
sat down. "Well, Moe," he whis- 
pered, "I reckon you got even for 
a few of the bulls that's been tor- 
tured to death to amuse a bunch of 
nuts. Maybe it wasn't the right way 
to do it. I don't know. If I'd only 
had the gun — " 

Catriona turned a white mask of 
a face up to Stonecypher. "They 
killed him, in theah?" 

"Sure. Bullnghtin' never was a 
sport. The bull can't win. If he's 
not killed in the ring, he's slaugh- 
tered under the stands " 

"You have moah smart-bulls, 
Stony." 

The black copter came in with 
the sunset and hovered over the 
sand. The face of Duelmaster 
Smith peered out under his black 
tarn, while a hooded man, with pis- 
tols tattooed on his hand, aimed an 
automatic rifle. The duelmaster 
smiled at Stonecypher and cried, 
"You really should have waited un- 
til you were farther out in the 
Lake, before you dropped that lit- 
tle buzzer in the water." 




SCIENCE 



Fights of the Future 

HP EN YEARS from now, our air 
-*• fighting will probably be done 
by high-flying automatic machines 
controlled from the ground by 
technicians. War victims will be 
the unlucky ones on whom the 
bombs are released, while the men 
who do the actual fighting will be 
comparatively safe. 

Powerful destructive bombs and 
intercepting missiles will chase 
each other at speeds, heats and 
heights that the human body could 
never stand. Until recently, the 
speed of sound was considered 
mysterious and unbeatable. Today, 
our fighting planes can beat this 
speed in short spurts. And this is 
only the beginning. The National 
Advisory Committee for Aeronau- 
tics, in experimenting with designs 
for planes and missiles of the fu- 
ture, is exploring the hypersonic 
regions. This begins at five times 
the speed of sound. And at more 
than five miles up, where super- 
planes must fly, sound's speed 
comes to 3,300 miles per hour. 

The dangers at such speeds axe 
tremendous. But there will be no 
reason for man to expose himself 
to these rigors. The machines that 
his skill and brains develop will do 



that for him. 

The danger of overheating is the 
principal barrier when planes and 
missiles are pushed through the air. 
At three times the speed of sound, 
the friction between the air and 
the surface of the plane produces a 
temperature of 600 degrees F. At 
five times sound, the temperature 
may reach 1,600 decrees. This 
would melt most metals into a 
shapeless mass, kill the crew and 
destroy the equipment. 

This heat is created in die thin 
boundary layer of air around the 
aircraft. While for short spurts of 
ultraspeed it will not soak into the 
craft, for sustained flight even test 
planes must be virtually flying re- 
frigerators. 

Titanium and other such metals 
capable of beating the heat effect 
will be used to overcome this dan- 
ger. There is even talk of construct- 
ing supersonic planes of a glass 
laminate made of fiber glass and 
held together by a suitable bond- 
ing resin, like polyester. The phc- 
nolics and melamines could also be 
used as bonding resins. From varied 
tests and uses, this type of glass ap- 
pears able to withstand the .searing 
skin friction temperature generated 
in ultra-high speed flight much bet- 
ter than most metals used in to- 
day's aircraft. 

From all indications, air fighting 
of the future will probably be 
strictly impersonal. The machines 
themselves will be the pilots; the 
crew on the ground will merely 
start the machinery to working and. 
guide them along their way. The 
wars in which our children and 
grandchildren will share will un- 
doubtedly be infinitely more de- 



99 



100 

structive, overwhelming and far- 
fetched than anything we can 
dream up in today's fiction. 

The Robot Whipping Boy 

THE ROBOT of science fiction 
may soon have an actual coun- 
terpart who will be used to perform 
the kinds of work that humans con- 
sider too dangerous — such as clear- 
ing up radioactive debris, dis- 
mantling bombs, closing broken 
gas mains, etc. 

To operate this type of mechan- 
ism, it would be necessary to 
mount the robot on a vehicle radio- 
controlled from a console set up a 
safe distance away. The radio-con- 
trolled arms will manipulate like 
human arms, while the operator 
will get a three-dimensional view 
of the progress of the work through 
his binocular television camera. 
Thus, the mechanical hand re- 
sponding to the action of the oper- 
ator's hand will work almost with 
a sense of touch in handling the 
dangerous objects. 

As the operator's hand closes 
upon an object, the mechanical 
hands will do likewise, so that the 
operator will feci the resistance 
imposed by the object that is being 
handled some distance away. 



A 



Last New World 

T THE VERY bottom of the 
_ sea — a depth of approxi- 
mately five, and in some cases 6%, 
miles — there exists an entire world 
of sea life. This was described in 
the reports of a recent deep sea ex- 
pedition made by a Danish naval 
vessel. Twenty-seven different va- 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 

rieties of sea life were dredged up 
from their black world where they 
live in close to freezing tempera- 
tures, and under pressures of about 
15,000 pounds to the square inch. 

Included were all types of crea- 
tures similar to polyps and coral, 
all sedentary-type animals, but it is 
possible that larger and more active 
creatures such as a type of fish and 
squid also exist at these depths. 
Right now, however, it is impos- 
sible to do more than vaguely 
scratch the surface of this world, 
since we haven't developed the 
right tools for sea bottom research. 
What we have to work with now is 
still in a crude state. 

Scientists also found that the 
bottom of the sea was infested 
with bacteria which showed major 
differences in character from bac- 
teria found on land or in surface 
waters. 

It's the last frontier on our 
planet: the bottom of the sea. 

Watch Those Scales! 

TO JUDGE from an 1800-year- 
old Roman bronze weighing 
instrument on exhibit in a Balti- 
more, Maryland, art museum, it 
would seem that the ancient 
Roman merchant didn't have as 
much of an opportunity to weight 
the scales as his modern counter- 
parts do. 

According to the instrument ex- 
hibited, the Roman scale worked 
on the lever principle. There is a 
14-inch portable bronze rod which 
hangs by any one of three hooks, 
each on a different face of the rod. 
The item to be weighed is hung on 
hooks which are suspended from a 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 

chain at the end of the short arm 
of the lever. This idea is very simi- 
lar to that used in certain types of 
scales in use today. 

Only a single counterweight, 
however, was used in the old Ro- 
man scale to balance the object be- 
ing weighed. Its operation was 
simple: all one did was slide the 
counterweight bark and forth 
along the graduated scale on the 
long arm of tlir lever iinlil it bal- 
anced. The weight could then be 
read from the scale. The entire in- 
strument has three faces and three 
scales, each one exposed when the 
scale is hung by its corresponding 
hook. 

Voodoo Can Kill You! 

THE EXPRESSION "scared to 
** death" is more than just that. 
According to Drs. W. Proctor Har- 
vey of Washington and Samuel A. 
Levine of Boston, writing for the 
Journal of the American Medical 
Association, it is possible to be lit- 
erally frightened to death. 

Although death from fright is 
rather rare, abnormal heartbeats 
caused by fright from a prolonged 
and highly irregular pattern which 
the doctors say could lead to ven- 
tricular fibrillation. This is a situa- 
tion where groups of heart muscles 
beat independently and without 
rhythm and the heart is unable to 
pump blood, thus resulting in 
death. 

Animal experiments show a 
nervous pathway from the hypoth- 
alamus — the base of die brain —to 
the heart. This— to a normal per- 
son in a highly frightening emo- 
tional situation— could cause types 



101 

of ventricular irregularities which 
could result in death. 

The "voodoo" and "hexing" 
deaths of Africa and South Amer- 
ica and Australia are not myths. 
They actually do occur. The emo- 
tional stress of the terrorized fear 
brought out by "voodoo" or "hex- 
ing" can cause death, but it would 
be a gradual process rather than a 
sudden one. 

Things We Never Knew 
Until Recently 

THE PREHISTORIC buffalo, 
-^ according to bones recently un- 
earthed in Texas, was almost twice 
as large as his modern progeny. 

The reason women are usually 
smaller than men is that the female 
—or estrogenic — hormone has a 
growth-suppressing action which is 
exerted through its stimulation of 
the adrenal gland to produce hor- 
mones similar to cortisone. These 
hormones depress the rate of en- 
ergy production and have a pow- 
erful action in checking replace- 
ment of skin cells and suppressing 
growth in general. 

A cubic foot of atmosphere at 
ground level holds three million 
times the amount of air of a cubic 
foot of atmosphere at an altitude 
of 100 miles. 

If laid edge to edge, the blood 
cells carried in the average adult 
human body would stretch 1 1 6,000 
miles. 

One ordinary glass marble could 
make 100 miles of glass fiber. 

The energy in an average thun- 
derstorm is equal to that dissipated 
by 50 A-bombs of the type dropped 
over Hiroshima. 



Norm Verifier's fancy was pretty well fixed on thoughts of elec- 
tronic calculators — until the invention started making passes at 
the inventor! 



THE 

Romantic Analogue 



By W. W. SkupeldycMe 



Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



MATHEMATICIANS are just 
like people: old, young, fat, 
thin, male, female. This one was 
male, thirty-five, with steady brown 
eyes and a nice smile when he re- 
membered to use it. His name was 
Norman Vernier, and besides being 
a mathematical whiz generally, he 
had designed and built an elec- 
tronic brain, or calculator, which 
was in some ways smarter than 
himself — and a lot less diffident. 

Electronic calculators are invari- 
ably given acronymic names such 
as BINAC, SEAG, and MANIAC, 
and nine out of ten of them are of 
the digital type. This is a nice way 
of saying that they count on their 
fingers. They're nearly as big as 
yachts, and cost more, but can cal- 
culate a million times faster than 
any human. 

Norm's machine was of the ana- 
logue type, which is less flexible, 
less complex, and vastly smaller 

102 



and cheaper. He called it the 
ICWEA (ICK-wee-ah), which 
stood for "I Can Work 'Em All!" It 
could, too! It was especially good 
at deriving equations from curves, 
which was really something. 

Charley Oglethorpe bunt into 
the office one morning, catching 
Norm in a brown study. "Hi, Gen- 
ius. How is she perking now?" 

"All right, except the pen skips 
a little sometimes and makes a 
messy curve." 

"Have to damp that arm better. 
When can I have her to work on?" 

"Soon as I finish these Mugu 
problems." 

Charley stared at him. 

"Mugu. Guided -missile center. 
It's nice business if we can get it — 
the digitals are all booked up 
months ahead, and the particular 
type of problem they send us is 
right up our alley.*' 

"I thought you were kidding me, 



104 



W. W. SKUPELDYCKLE 



like that Boolean Algebra stuff." 

"Wasn't kidding then, either." 

"I'll stick to instrument-making, 
thanks. You math guys never have 
any fun." 

Norm shrugged, turned to the 
telephone, and called an extension. 

"Hennosa." It was a rich, pleas- 
ant voice. 

"Vic? How about the rest of the 
Mugu cards? Ready yet?" 

"I'll send them up right away. 
Just finished them." 

"Who was that?" Charley in- 
quired. 

"Vic Hermosa. Smart boy." 

Charley smiled a little. 



THERE WAS a knock at the 
door. 

"Come in," Norm called. The 
door opened, and a small, neat girl 
entered. Her long bob was dark 
and silky, but windblown. She 
tossed her head and her hair set- 
tled into place, as if she had just 
brushed it. She extended a pack of 
punched cards. 

"Thank you," Norm said, grave- 

The girl looked up at him sud- 
denly, and he stepped back a little. 
She had surprising, deep-violet 
eyes, and their glance seemed to 
have a tangible impact. She nod- 
ded grave acknowledgment and 
left. 

"Damn it, I wish I could do 
that!" Norm complained. 

"Make goo-goo eyes?" 

"No. Shake my head so my hair 
would automatically be combed 
like hers. I've been fighting this 
cowlick ever since I've been a kid 
— stocking caps, gunk, the works. 



Still got it. And the part moves 
around and I have to hunt for it." 

"Know who she is?" 

"Nope. Clerk, messenger, I guess. 
They're always hiring new ones," 

"Doesn't she ever speak?" 

"Of course she — come to think 
of it, I've never heard her. Must 
say it's a relief after the usual yack- 
ety-yack. Haven't anything to talk 
to her about, anyway. She's just a 
child." 

"A pretty one, though." 

"Yes, she is." 

"You sure don't know any- 
thing about women. If anyone 
made eyes at me that way, I'd do 
something about it." 

"What, for instance?" Norm in- 
quired dryly. 

"Well, of course, I'm married. 
But I'd find out who she was, any- 
how. Sometimes I think you're 
dead and don't know it." 

"Sometimes I agree with you," 
Norm said. He fed one of the 
punch cards into the transmitter 
head, which fingered the holes and 
told ICWEA what the problem 
was. ICWEA began drawing a 
curve on the curve tracer. It would 
have taken Norm or anyone else 
days to arrive at the answer. "See? 
Skips here and there, but I can ink 
in the gaps." 

"Looks like the pen catches on 
the paper a little. I'll grind the 
point while I'm at it. Say, that 
thing really thinks, doesn't it?" 

"In a way. Generally, the digi- 
tals have it all over the analogues 
when it comes to reasoning, but I 
built an extra brain into her." 

"Where?" 

"The 'Y' path. Remember? Tries 
several appropriate methods in sue- 



THE ROMANTIC ANALOGUE 



105 



cession. I analyzed my own meth- 
ods of attack, and built the same 
methods into her. She's an elec- 
tronic me, except faster and more 
accurate.*' 

"I bet. She's more alive than you 
are.,Why don't you step out a lit- 
tle? First thinR you know, you'll be 
getting old, and it'll be too late." 

"Leave the match-making to the 
women. I may be old, but I'm not 
an old fool. It's fall, not spring." 

"Yeah? All you need to be an 
old fool is just a little more time." 



NORM IGNORED HIM, and 
took a card from his desk. It 
seemed to be an extra, not with the 
pack. He put it in the machine. 
The curve-tracer began to draw a 
rather abrupt curve, which mean- 
dered half across the sheet before 
Norm realized what it was. Sud- 
denly, an image leaped to his 
mind's eye and he watched with 
fascination while the pen traced 
this mathematical' impossibility to 
the far end of the paper, and in 
obedience to several successive neg- 
ative, factors in the problem re- 
traced in the opposite direction a 
litde lower down. 

A head, a slightly lifted elbow, 
full rounded breast, a knee luxuri- 
ously drawn up, a dangling arm, 
all in one continuous line. There 
was nothing obvious about it; it 
was formalized, but with the indi- 
vidual style that is the artist's signa- 
ture. Once seen, the image persis- 
ted. 

"Hey, Charley, look at this!" 
"Yeah. What about it?" 
"What about it! You ever see 
anything like it?" 



"Sure. It's a closed loop, like a 
hysteresis curve." 

"An hysteresis curve. But this 
isn't one. Look closely." 

"Of course, it has harmonics and 
variables in it. Might be one of 
those gas-discharge curves, if the 
gas tube happened to be defective. ' 
I've seen some funny . . ." 

"Look! It's a reclining figure, 
with the head turned toward you — 
see? — and the forearm over the 
head— here. Breast, knee here, foot 
with the toe pointed, calf, thigh, 
and the near arm hanging. Re- 
markable, once you see it . . ." 

,r You're crazy. All I can see is a 
closed loop with some wrinkles in 
it." 

"Why, it's nearly as plain as a 
photograph! I can't under- 
stand . . ." 

"Plain, my eye! If that's the arm 
hanging down, and this the hand, 
where are the fingers? That 'hand' 
is just an oval. You got some imag- 
ination if you can get a reclining 
figure out of that." 

"Not a nude of the beer-garden 
type, I grant you. This is real art. 
Know what this means? Have you 
any idea how complex a formula 
must be to trace a curve like this? 
Just a plain hyperbola is bad 
enough. This is a test of the ma- 
chine. Those Mugu boys have 
worked out this formula to see if 
she could break it down and draw 
the equivalent , curve, though I 
don't see how they did it. Even 
the larger digitals would find this a 
tough nut to crack, but our baby 
is a whiz at curves, see? I wonder 
how they justified the machine- 
time on it. Of course it is barely 
possible that they derived the equa- 



106 



W. W. SKUPELDYCKLE 



tion themselves, but it must have 
taken weeks if they did." 

"Maybe it took us long as you 
say, but I still can't see any reclin- 
ing figure in that curve. It's just a 
closed curve with some wiggles and 
bumps on it." 

"In any case, I'm going to send 
this to Mugu right away. They'll 
want to know how long it took." 

"I wouldn't, if I were you." 

"Why not?" 

"Maybe trouble developed in the 
machine. Better run some more 
cards through it first. But right now 
I'm going home. We're having a 
roast tonight. Say, why don't you 
come to supper with us? Alice 
would be delighted — she was just 
wondering what happened to you. 
I'll phone her . . ." 

"No, no! I have to — look, I got 
to find out what this means, you 
see? It isn't that — explain it to 
Alice, will you? We need this con- 
tract, need all the work we can get, 
you understand?" 

"Sure, sure. How about next 
week? OK? Well, see you in the 
morning." Charley left, grinning to 
himself as he closed the door be- 
hind him. 



"IVTORM DIDN'T SEE the grin. 
ll He was already puzzled 
enough; ICWEA behaved herself 
perfectly on the next five cards, 
and kept her mind on her business. 
Meanwhile, Norm studied the first 
curve again. Funny Charley 
couldn't see it — the figure was puz- 
zling at first, until you got the idea, 
but then it was so clear. Or was it? 
Suddenly, he couldn't see it him- 
self. He turned it upside down and 



sideways; it was just a funny closed 
curve, having neither mathematical 
nor structural significance. Maybe 
he was going crazy! 

He threw the curve down on his 
desk and, soothed by the whirring 
of the tracer motor, fell into a 
brown study. Suddenly, the image 
of the brunette with the violet eyes 
appeared. No reclining nude, she; 
she shook her head in that habitual 
gesture and her long bob fell per- 
fectly in place. She turned, with 
demurely downcast lashes and 
looked up at him with her violet 
eyes, and Norm came out of his 
trance with a start. 

He removed the last curve — a 
simple hyperbolic curve, probably a 
problem in attenuation or decay of 
some kind — and put in the last 
punch-card. The machine started 
up immediately; the curve was 
elliptical. Then a vertical down- 
stroke, retraced and with a gentle 
half-loop added. It was writing! 
P-r-o-p-i-n-q . . . What might this 
be? He watched, fascinated, as the 
letters continued. "Propinquity is 
the mother of love," it said, and 
stopped. 

His trained mathematical logic 
gave him an immediate solution to 
the enigma: he was cracking up. 
It was utterly impossible to derive 
the equation to write "propin- 
quity" in Spencerian script in less 
than a hundred man-hours, nor 
could a mathematical calculator be 
hired for so frivolous a purpose. It 
was fantastic, impossible; therefore, 
it was not so, and he was either 
dreaming or crazy. Maybe thinking 
about that little brunette . . . Sure- 
ly not; still, he had been driving 
himself pretty hard. In the morn- 



THE ROMANTIC ANALOGUE 



107 



ing he would be fresh and alert. If 
it were a trick, he'd catch the 
trickster. And if it turned out to be 
a perfectly logical curve, he'd see 
a doctor. 

He left the curve in the machine, 
closed the ventilator in the wall 
over* his desk, and turned on the 
burglar alarm. This was nothing so 
crude as a loose board with a 
switch, but a quite elaborate elec- 
tronic circuit that produced a field 
near the door. It wouldn't work on 
ghosts, but if any material body en- 
tered that field, it would trip the 
alarm and start a regular Mardi 
Gras. Security required by govern- 
ment contracts hardly demanded 
so much, but for a small plant it 
was sufficiently cheap, and Charley 
had had a lot of fun with it. Char- 
ley! Have to keep him out, too; 
and being its daddy, he'd know how 
to disable the alarm. Of course, it 
would really be sufficient to tie a 
thread across the door which would 
break if anyone entered. He had 
no thread, but after a moment's 
thought, he pulled a three-cent 
stamp out of his bill-fold, and 
turned out the office-light. After 
glancing up and down the hall, he 
stuck the stamp on the door so that 
it would tear if the door opened. 



IN THE MORNING, the stamp 
was still intact, and it was hard 
to see, even in broad daylight. The 
paper in the curve-tracer was per- 
fectly blank, and there was no 
punch-card in the transmitter 
head. It might still be an elaborate 
joke, but the chances were small. 
He might be cracking up, or may 
have imagined the whole thing. 



The best thing to do would be to 
put it entirely out of his mind. 

He succeeded in this until mid- 
morning, when ICWEA called him 
a "handsome devil." He jerked the 
punch-card out of the transmitter 
and called Vic. 

"Hermosa." 

That voice! It made chills run 
up and down his backbone. A man 
had no right to a voice like that. 
"Vic? Bring up the calculations for 
the last batch of punch-cards, will 
you? I want to check something. 
The card numbers are F-141 
through F-152." 

"Right away." 

Vic wasn't especially gabby. A 
good-looking young Latin, who 
knew as much math as most, they'd 
probably lose him to the draft any 
day now. Presently, someone 
knocked on the door. 

"Come in." 

It wasn't Vic; it was the girl. 
She laid the pack of problems and 
their attached work-sheets on the 
desk, shook her hair into place — 
did she even have to comb it in the 
morning when she got up? — looked 
him briefly in the eye, and turned 
to go. 

"How is Vic these days?" Norm 
inquired, whimsically. "Is he able 
to get about?" 

The girl smiled politely at this 
obvious badinage and left. 

He checked the problems against 
cards as he came to them. lie 
knew the punch code well enough 
to do this in his head, since the 
kind of operation indicated was 
quite obvious. But the problems 
ended with F-151, and the "hand- 
some devil" card was F-152. He 
got on the phone again. 



108 



W, W. SKUPELDYCKLE 



"Vic? What's your next card 
number?" 

"F-153." One expected a little 
guy to have a high voice; this one 
was quite deep, but soft. 

"Are the cards numbered very 
far ahead?" 

"We usually number a couple of 
dozen cards, and assign the num- 
bers to the problems as they come 
in, from a scratch sheet." 

"Any of the cards been lost?" 

"Oh yes, on occasion. So far, 
we've recovered them all — there 
are only two rooms where they 
could be. Up there or down here." 

That voice! How could a man 
have a voice like that? And why 
should he care if one did? Why 
even notice it? Instead of going to 
the cafeteria for lunch, he drove 
downtown and consulted the fam- 
ily doctor, who laughed at him. 
Reassured, he returned to the plant 
and got a sandwich and milk be- 
fore going to his office. Old Doc 
Hrflelbauer might be wrong, but 
he usually wasn't. Norm liked sev- 
eral men, but he didn't dream 
about any of them; if he was off 
his rocker, it was in some other 
manner. Visual delusions, for in- 
stance. 

The thing to do was to see Vic 
face to face, He called the office 
manager. "Henry? Send Vic Her- 
rnosa up there, will you? I want to 
talk to him." 

"Vic Hermosa? He's in the 
Army. Didn't you know?" 

"No, I didn't. Who is the guy 
that answers the phone in mat 
fruity voice?" 

Henry lowered his voice. "Guy? 
That's Vic's sister Virginia. She 
took Vic's place when he left. Sim- 



plified the security investigation, 
and she's good, too. About as good 
as Vic, I'd say." 

"You mean to tell me a little 
girl like her could have a voice that 
deep?" 

"Startling, isn't it? Of course, it's 
actually a low contralto or tenor, 
but you expect her to be a lyric so- 
prano. Shall I send her up to see 
you. 

"No, no. I want to think a bit 
first. Say, who interviewed her?" 

"Charley, I suppose. Just a for- 
mality, anyhow ; the Hermosas and 
the Oglethorpes are neighbors, you 
know." 



WONDERFUL STUFF! Eso- 
teric phenomena in a sealed 
office! His very own calculating ma- 
chine made calculated love to him ; 
his best friend was evasive, and the 
junior mathematician he thought 
he had been talking to every day for 
a couple of weeks was in the army. 
He might hammer away at all con- 
cerned until all the cards were ac- 
counted for, but that would dis- 
rupt office routine. Strategy, that 
was the thing! Be mighty peculiar 
if he couldn't break up this busi- 
ness, now that he had an idea what 
was going on. 

But did he? Whoever punched 
the cards needed the proper equa- 
tions derived first, and that called 
for a digital or an analogue com- 
puter. Preferably his own ICWEA, 
because she was especially good at 
curves. Deriving them by the old 
methods was just too much horse- 
work for any joke. And it didn't 
have to be a joke, either. The joke 
might be just the cover for a more 



THE ROMANTIC ANALOGUE 



109 



sinister activity — bosh! If that were 
the case, why call attention to it 
with funny-business? 

But what hurt was the girl's be- 
ing mixed up in it. He could take 
a rib from Charley, for instance, 
but the girl was practically a 
stranger — unfortunately. Women 
could be cruel, as his mother had 
often warned him. lit? thought of 
his mother's last year in the hos- 
pital and winced. She had sacri- 
ficed so much for him; and yet, 
was it really bcticr to be a free 
bachelor than an old family man 
like Charley? There wasn't any- 
thing the matter with Alice that he 
could see. Charley laved her; that 
was plain. 

Tonight should solve the thing, 
once and for all. He left the plant, 
speaking to everyone he met as he 
usually did. Then he sneaked back 
in, with the guard's help, and hid 
in his own office with the lights 
out. 

His phone rang and he almost 
answered it before he remembered 
that he was supposed to be gone. 
The building was by no means de- 
serted; probably there was some- 
one working overtime in more than 
one department, though the main 
business. for the day was finished. 
After a bit, the phone rang again, 
and he ignored it. 

Waiting was hard. He couldn't 
read, so he let his mind wander: 
the next modification to ICWEA — 
what a romantic old thing she was! 
He needed a haircut; he'd have to 
get one tomorrow, before the hair 
grew down over his ears. What a 
voice that girl had — and those 
eyes! Would they get further work 
from Mugu? How could they con- 



tact other Government agencies? 
ICWEA was working out pretty 
good; would it be better to try to 
sell ICWEAs to anyone who 
wanted them, or to keep the old 
girl busy and work problems for 
others? Eventually, the former, 
though for the time being it might 
be better to continue as they were 
until the old girl was well known. 
Under present conditions, that 
shouldn't take — what was that hiss- 
ing noise, a radiator? 

He listened closely. Hiss, hiss, 
hiss. No, it was a rubbing sound, 
with a scrape and an occasional 
hollow thump. Not loud, but close 
at hand. The ventilating system — 
how obvious, now! He watched a 
white hand disengage the catches 
and carefully lower the grill to his 
desk. A small figure in white cover- 
alls wormed its way out of the 
opening, landed on its hands on 
top of his desk, kicked feet clear 
and cartwheeled to the floor with 
disdainful ease. A head-shake set- 
tled a long bob in place; who could 
do that? Virginia Hermosa, and no 
one else! 

She couldn't see him against the 
shine of the window. She turned 
ICWEA on and let her warm up, 
meanwhile fastening a large sheet 
of paper on the bed of the curve- 
tracer with tape. She put a blank 
card in the punching head, opened 
the door of the patching-panel 
cabinet and rearranged the patch- 
cords there. 

What a lab assistant she would 
make! Wasted in Set-up; anyone 
could punch cards, with a little 
practice. Well, not anyone, but any 
mathematician could. How thor- 
oughly she knew this machine! 



no 



W. W. SKUPELDYCKLE 



Charley must have told her, or her 
brother, plenty! 

With the curve-tracer running at 
slow speed, she held the stylus 
steadily on the words she had writ- 
ten on the paper; the coordinates 
and rates were fed into ICWEA's 
brain, she derived the horrible 
equations corresponding to the 
script, and obligingly translated 
these in turn to punchings on the 
card. 

So simple, when you saw it. But 
who would think of putting a bur- 
glar alarm on an air-duct? She 
could go all over the building 
through the walls if she chose. She 
was small enough to get through 
the ducts easily, though the vertical 
sections must be tough, even for so 
athletic a girl. 

The punching head stopped. Vir- 
ginia restored everything to its 
original condition, stuck the card 
she had punched into a pile of 
them, folded the paper and stuffed 
it into her pocket, and turned to 
go. Norm put on the lights. 



STARTLED, she whirled, churn- 
ing the air with her hands to 
keep her balance. He held his hand 
out for the paper. 

"No!" she said, her voice shrill 
with excitement 

Wordlessly, he closed in on her, 
and after a brief struggle pulled the 
paper out of her pocket. 

It said, simply, "I love you." 
Norm looked at Virginia, who 
turned her head away. 

'T can't appreciate the joke just 
now, though I realize it must be 
very funny. Charley will enjoy it. 
But what a lot of trouble. Suppose 



you had got stuck in the duct, then 
what? Is it worth the risk? And the 
violation of security is very seri- 
ous." 

"I'm going to quit anyway," she 
muttered. 

So deep a voice for such a small 
girl! "Why did you do it?" 

"Well, it all started as a joke. 
Charley said you were shy, and — 
and — well . . ." 

"I see. Natural enough, I sup- 
pose. And you pretended to be your 
brother on the phone." 

"No, I never said I was Vic," 
she denied, quickly. 

He was handling this all wrong; 
he wasn't getting anywhere. All 
this was just talk, evasive talk. 
"Charley hired you?" 

"Yes. When Vic left for basic 
training." 

"I see. Charley's quite a joker, 
and it was hard to refuse him." 

"It was kind of a joke at first, but 
you're overlooking something: he's 
very fond of you. He really is! He 
brags all the time about how smart 
you are, and what a nice guy." 

"Charley's married, and he 
wants to see me married, too." 

"And you don't like girls?" 

"Listen, you made that drawing, 
too, and all the other stuff?" 

"Yes." 

An idea raised its pretty head. 
"Listen, I've decided to be very 
angry about this. You've made a 
fool of me, and I'm not going to 
let you get away with it. Now, I 
know a place that's quiet, and has 
very good steaks; I'm going to take 
you to supper and bawl you out. 
Better get into street-clothes, and 
don't take all night." 

"Sorry, I couldn't possibly. Some 



THE ROMANTIC ANALOGUE 



111 



other time, perhaps." 

"Tonight. Now. Get going." 

"No. I have a date." 

"Break it I" 

"No! You may be my boss, and 
I may be a forward hussy, but to- 
night I'm going home, and you 
can't stop me!" 

How silly could you get? Sud- 
denly he understood the way of a 
man with a maid; love was older 
than conversation, and they both 
saw and understood through and 
beyond any silly words. In fact, the 
sillier the words, the better! 

"That's what you think! You're 
going with me, or you're going to 
jail. They'll put you in a dark cell 
with the rats. They have their own 
specially-bred rats, you know." He 
leered, slyly. 

"You wouldn't dare!" 

He shrugged, elaborately, and 
turned to the phone. She darted 
past him to the door and he caught 
her, pulled her back out of the 
hall. She was surprisingly strong 
and determined, and she ducked 
when he kissed her. 

"That one was a mess, wasn't 
it?" he complained. 

She relaxed and began to laugh, 
and he joined her. She looked into 
his eyes a long moment, and 



pulled his head down, kissed him 
tenderly. "You don't give a girl 
much choice — one big rat or a lot 
of little ones." 

"I'll give you no choice at all. 1*11 
teach you to play tricks on me! 
Hurry up and change." 

"One of the girls keeps a semi- 
formal in her locker. I can borrow • 
it and we could go dancing." 

"I don't dance. Never learned. 
Couldn't we just talk?" 

"We could, but we won't; you'll 
never learn any younger. You seem 
light enough on your feet. Come 
on, it'll be fun!" 

"Tonight I can do anything! 
You take too long to change, and 
I'll tear the building down brick by 
brick with my bare hands, hear 
me?" 

"No, please don't! I'll hurry, I 
promise!" 

He waited impatiently at the 
door of the locker room. Now that 
he knew how to talk to a girl, he 
wanted to talk, and talk, and talk 
some more. He planned extrava- 
gant things to say when she came 
out, but when she appeared, smil- 
ing, he was struck dumb. She took 
his arm and they half ran, half 
skipped out of the building to his 
car. 



BACK ISSUES — For those who collect science fiction magazines, 
arid for those reading IF for the first time who want to catch up 
on the good stories they've missed, we have managed to obtain a 
limited number of copies of all earlier issues. TheyVe available at 
35c each, from the Circulation Dept., Quinn Publishing Co., 
Kingston, N. Y. 




// this story has a moral, it is: don't shoot too 
soon, or you may never know what you hit! 



IN THE FOREST 



By Leslie Perri 



Illustrated by Dick Rockwell 



THERE was a wind. It blew 
through the topmost branches 
of the tall trees in a silent, autum- 
nal forest. Dry leaves trembled ner- 
vously as the dark tree trunks 
stirred in a thrust of the wind. A 



scarlet maple leaf lay unmoving on 
the inky surface of a cold spring. 
Behind an interlacing of nakedly- 
white birches a young deer stood 
still with wide lacquered eyes fixed 
on him. Its tar-black nostrils shone 



112 



IN THE FOREST 



113 



in a quivering of fright and then 
like the wind it rustled momentarily 
on the forest floor of crackling 
leaves and disappeared. 

He breathed heavily with disap- 
pointment. He had transmitted 
fear, his own apprehensions, again. 

He moved from the protection of 
an overhanging rock. The ease 
with which he moved delighted 
him sensuously. This sportive ex- 
hilaration had to be curbed ; it 
made him less sensitive to the prob- 
lem at hand. He had to communi- 
cate. 

There were obviously lower or- 
ders, mainly the winged beings. 
Some were tiny and fragile. They 
would approach and light on him 
with the unwariness of the naive, 
trusting to their speed to escape 
from danger, From them he had 
no consciousness of intelligence. 
They buzzed and swarmed and 
hummed with monotonous idiocy. 
The larger winged beings were 
more interesting but they wore the 
drabness of the forest on their sleek 
wings. They would not come close 
but made inquiring sounds and 
swooped away at his approach. 

He had learned to move silently 
through the silent forest. He felt 
almost weightless and infinitely 
agile and this delight he had to re- 
nounce for the time. He could 
walk erect, or run with incredible 
rapidity. And when he stood erect 
his body attained a new vitality 
and with his head above the lower 
woody vegetable growths he ex- 
perienced a new dignity and re- 
gality. He was no petitioning refu- 
gee from the pitiless vise of unend- 
ing cold. Here in this autumnal 
forest was the warmth and promise 



of spring, for him. 

Excitement made him warmer 
and more jubilant still. He had to 
communicate. But with whom? 
With which of these beings could 
he share his unbelievable adven- 
ture? He ran down a sloping floor 
of the forest and ran and ran, slip- 
ping and sliding on the leaves un- 
til he was breathless. And came to 
halt in a marshy spot with the 
spikes of dried vegetation tower- 
ing about him. His heart beat with 
transcendental joy. He ached to 
babble of his happiness and then to 
relive his adventure in the telling 
of it to another intelligence the 
equal of his. 

He breathed more slowly and 
more slowly yet. Above the trees, 
caught in the web of branches, a 
brilliant blue sky gleamed and vir- 
gin cloud forms of purest white 
drifted slowly above the trap of the 
forest. And there, lower than die 
clouds, was the magnificence of a 
burning sun, a brilliance whose 
golden shadow warmed the tree 
trunks, the faces of the dry leaves, 
the soft, sucking black earth of the 
marsh and — him. In this warmth 
he luxuriated, with every sensibili- 
ty in his being. His body had 
starved for warmth. 

And while he stood thus, a long 
slithering form passed before him, 
describing in its movement across 
the moss and rocks and black leaf- 
moulded earth resilient, graceful 
curves. It passed him without no- 
tice, conveying nothing, an im- 
penetrable life form. 

And then, as suddenly, his mus- 
cles tightened and he withdrew 
reluctantly from the warmth of the 



114 



LESLIE PERRI 



LIE MOVED closer into the 

■ * dried, tassel-topped grasses s 
feeling the scrape of sharp seed- 
bearing burrs as they clung to him. 
In a closely woven burrow, hidden 
from the sun and the reach of the 
wind, he heard a new sound, a 
louder, sharper crackle in the for- 
est. A new scent crowded into the 
burrow and overpowered him with 
a new sensation, a suffocating 
awareness of danger. 

He was cold again, and taut. 
The shadow from which he had 
escaped enclosed him again. This 
same deadly shadow of fear sapped 
his new vitality and destroyed his 
sensuous joy. 

There was that sharper sound, a 
baying shrillness that resounded 
through the forest quiet and ham- 
mered at the tree trunks and un- 
resisting vegetation with an unrea- 
soning insistence. The echo of this 
new, insane voice of danger stirred 
him. 

He moved cautiously and quick- 
ly from the burrow and through 
the marsh. He was not erect now, 
but low and rapid-moving. He 
thought desperately of survival 
now, not communication. This 
howling, yapping being had found 
him out, scented him in the forest 
and he knew only that he had to 
escape. 

The forest floor rose gradually to 
greater and greater heights. He 
recognized the terrain and the 
character of this part of the forest. 
There was, at the summit, a sud- 
den drop down a face of irregular 
outcroppings of stone. And at the 
base of this lay a vast body of wa- 
ter in which he could hide. He 
could manage the tall face of stone, 



hiding and blending into its cold 
greyness. 

The baying and yapping was 
closer and he moved even more 
rapidly. The chase seemed directed 
to him, not purposeless. Behind the 
baying and shrill crying of this 
hunter was yet another will. And 
this chilled him with hopeless hor- 
ror. He felt instinctively that he 
could communicate with this will, 
that this was the intelligence he 
sought. But between it and him 
was this unleashed agent for his 
destruction. 

He ran more quickly and with a 
new sensation of weariness as the 
slope mounted. The vegeta tion 
was green here, and somewhat 
sparser. There were fewer places 
of refuge. At times he ran without 
the protection of any covering, 
only the moss and green ground 
vines underfoot. 

As he reached the summit he 
heard a new sound, a sharp unde- 
cipherable crack and whine over- 
head. When he had reached the 
top of the sharp rise, he stood 
erect for a moment, seeking the 
surest path for his descent of the 
sharp rock face. The body of wa- 
ter below gleamed warmly blue. 
The sun was a glorious, almost per- 
fectly round entity, low in the sky. 
His body straightened involuntar- 
ily, rose up in the warmth of the 
sun, darkly and strangely outlined 
against the unbroken blue of the 
sky. And then as the crack and 
whine of the gun sounded in the 
evening quiet, not once but twice, 
and inexpertly a third time, his 
shape crumbled against the sky and 
he toppled from the cliff edge into 
the still blue of the lake below. 



IN THE FOREST 



115 



The man breathed heavily as he 
came up the hill. He was red- 
faced from exertion and frustra- 
tion. He was heavy and clumsy in 
the perfection Abercrombie and 
Fitch had tailored into his hunting 
clothes. He held his rifle, an ex- 
pensive and aesthetically beautiful 
instrument of destruction, like a 
blunt, ugly club. 

He stood at the edge of the cliff 



and looked down. There was noth- 
ing. Only the serenity of the early 
evening, the unanswering quiet of 
the lake, the ridge of mountains, 
the darkening sky. 

"Now what in the hell was 
that?" the man muttered. 

The dog, beside him, shivered 
and sat down suddenly. Its howl 
was unbidden, undirected, and it 
filled the forest with unrest. 



SPACESHIP— 1975 



"A SPHERE of dully gleaming 
metal some fifty feet in diam- 
eter, it rests on stubby, retract- 
able legs beside the buildings of 
the port center. Carriers speed 
to and fro from refrigerated 
warehouses, carrying cargo to 
the conveyer lift built into the 
ship's base. 

"The load consists of 8,000- 
odd men and women, each 
frozen solid in a coffin-like 
block of chemical ice. Living 
organic matter is the one thing 
the duplicator units can't repro- 
duce . . . 

"Now the last of the ice- 
blocks is aboard, the dozen-odd 
crewmen at their stations, the 
hatches sealed. The sphere 
floats for a moment, barely off 
the ground, while the stubby 
stabilizing legs retract. Then, 
slowly at first ( in order to 
avoid the heat of atmospheric 
friction) it soars into the sky. 
No one knows for sure how fast 



it can go. In theory, gravity acts 
instantaneously, and even the 
el ec to-magnetic waves that 
carry power travel at up to 
186,000 miles per second. . .*' 

This is a quotation from 
"The Sky's No Limit," an arti- 
cle in the March 1953 issue of 
The Sooner Magazine, which 
is published by the University 
of Oklahoma Association. It 
was written by Dwight V. 
Swain, old-time science fiction 
writer and instructor in jour- 
nalism at that school. Mr. 
Swain sneers at rockets but says 
we'll have space travel by 1975 ; 
the key inventions will be a 
"wireless power transmitter," a 
"contragravitational device," 
and a "transmutational dupli- 
cator" — this last being an an- 
swer to all problems of supply. 

Far-fetched? Maybe. But 
though we're betting on rockets, 
Mr. Swain just might have 
something there. 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 

(Continued from page 51} 



done to do it in another way. Ruiz- 
Sanchez raised his hand. Immedi- 
ately Chtexa walked toward the 
ship. 

"I wish you a good journey," the 
Lithian said, "wherever you may 
go. I wish also that your road may 
lead back to this world at some fu- 
ture time. I have brought you the 
gift that I sought before to give you, 
if the moment is appropriate." 

Cleaver had straightened up and 
was now glaring suspiciously at the 
Lithian. Since he did not under- 
stand the language, he was unable 
to find anything to which he could 
object; he simply stood and radi- 
ated unwclcomeness. 

"Thank you," Ruiz-Sanchez said. 
This creature of Satan made him 
miserable, made him feel intoler- 
ably in the wrong. How could 
Chtexa know — ? 



THE LITHIAN was holding 
out to him a small vase, sealed 
at the top and provided with two 
gently looping handles. The gleam- 
ing porcelain of which it had been 
made still carried inside it, under 
the glaze, the fire which had 
formed it; it was iridescent, alive 
with long quivering festoons and 
plumes of rainbows, and the form 
as a whole would have made any 
potter of Greece abandon his trade 
in shame. It was so beautiful that 
one could imagine no use for it at 
all. Certainly one could not fill it 
with left-over beets and put it in 
the refrigerator. Besides, it would 



116 



take up too much space. 

"This is my gift," Chtexa said. 
"It is the finest container yet to 
come from Xoredeshch Gton; the 
material of which it is made con- 
tains traces of every element to be 
found on Lithia, even including 
iron, and thus, as you see, it shows 
the colors of every shade of emotion 
and of thought. On Earth, it will 
tell Earthmen much of Lithia." 

"We will be unable to analyze it," 
Ruiz-Sanchez said. "It is too perfect 
to destroy, too perfect even to 
open." 

"Ah, but we wish you to open it," 
Chtexa said. "For it contains our 
other gift." 

"Another gift?" 

"Yes, a more important one. A 
fertilized, living egg of our species. 
Take it with you. By the time you 
reach Earth, it will be ready to 
hatch, and to grow up with you in 
your strange and marvelous world. 
The container is the gift of all of 
us; but the child inside is my gift, 
for it is my child." 

Ruiz-Sanchez took the vase in 
trembling hands, as though he ex- 
pected it to explode. It shook with 
subdued flame in his grip. 

"Goodbye," Chtexa said. He 
turned and walked away, back to- 
ward the entrance to the path. 
Cleaver watched him go, shading 
his eyes. 

"Now what was that all about?" 
the physicist said. "The Snake 
couldn't have made a bigger thing 
of it if he'd been handing you his 
own head on a platter. And all the 



A CASE OF CONSCIENCE 



117 



time it was only a pot!" 

Ruiz-Sanchez did not answer. 
He could not have spoken even to 
himself. Eie turned away and began 
to ascend the cleats, cradling the 
vase carefully under one elbow. 
While he was siill clirnbingj a shad- 
ow paised rapidly over the hull — 
Cleaver's last crate, being borne 
aloft into the hold by a crane. 



Then he was in the airlock, with 
the rising whine of the ship's gen- 
erators around him. A long shaft 
of light from outside was east ahead 
of him, picking out his shadow on 
the deck. After a moment, a sec- 
ond shadow overlaid his own: 
Cleaver's. Then the light dimmed 
and went out. 

The airlock door slammed. 



THE TROUBLE WITH BUBBLES 

(Continued from pagt 65) 



A Red Cross ship landed, its 
ports grating open. Dollies shuttled 
across to it, loading injured men. 

Two relief workers appeared . 
They opened the door to Hull's 
car, getting in the back. "Drive us 
to town." They sank down, ex- 
hausted. "We got to get more help. 
Hurry it." 

"Sure." Hull started the car 
again, gained speed. 

"How did it happen ?*' Julia 
asked one of the grim-faced 
hausted men, who dabbed auto- 
matically at the cuts on his face 
and neck. 

"Earthquake." 



"But why? Didn't they build it 
so — " 

"Big quake." The man shook his 
head wearily. "Nobody expected. 
Total loss. loOUHOdl of < ars. Tens 
of thousand! "i !"■( >ple.** 

The oiher worker grunted. "An 
act of God.'* 

Hull stiffened suddenly. His 
kered- 

"What is it?" Julia asked him. 

"Nothing." 

"Are you sure? Is something 
wrong?" 

Hull said nothing. He was deep 
in thought, his face a mask of 
startled, growing horror. 



THE 
COMETH 



PERSECUTION 
COMPLEXITIES 

Dear Sir: 

Your issue of March, 1953, con- 
tained an article entitled "Galileo 
the Persecuted." That Galileo was 
persecuted is true, but as to why he 
was persecuted your author seems 
to be mistaken. 

1. It was not heresy to teach 
the Copernican theory. 

2. The question revolves 
around, not the subject matter of 
his teaching, but how he taught it. 

In the first place the work of 
Copernicus, "De Revolutionibus 
Orbium Caelestium." which was 
published many years before Gali- 
leo, owed its publication to the fi- 
nancial support of two Catholic 
Cardinals and was dedicated to 
Pope Paul III. This is established 
historical fact. Would a Pope — 
any Pope — allow a heretical work 
to be dedicated to him? 

Second, Galileo taught the Co- 
pernican theory as an established 
fact, not a theory. Newton (1687) 
proved the theory, not Galileo. 

One other point: Galileo, in sup- 
porting his theory, rejected the tra- 



ditional interpretation of some of 
the texts of the Bible. For this he 
was punished, not for trying to ad- 
vance science or for being so intel- 
lectually in advance of his time. 

Every issue has two sides ; maybe 
the author would like to investi- 
gate my side. Let him review Car- 
dinal Nicholas of Cusa (1401- 
1464), Canon Copernicus (1473- 
1543), and an article on this sub- 
ject by Hilaire Belloc in 'Difficul- 
ties," published 1932, London, by 
Eyre and Spottiswoode. 

— Thomas F. Hardacre 
124 Myrtle St 
Lawrence, Mass. 

HIS PAIN, OUR GAIN 

Dear Editor: 

I dislike writing letters of praise, 
but I am of the opinion that one is 
in order for the March issue. I 
read a lot of science fiction: good, 
bad, indifferent, and sometimes — 
stinking. I usually write of the 
stinking issues of magazines, so it 
pains me deeply to write a letter 
such as this. 

Ivar Jorgenson*s Deadly City 
was better than good, and likewise 
for Kenneth O'Hara's Thy Name 
is Woman. The overall effect which 
everyone I know got from the last- 
mentioned story is the one I believe 
the author intended : a good "sick" 
feeling. 

There are three other stories in 
the March issue which I consider 
outstanding: Bryce Walton's The 
VictoT (although I cannot con- 
ceive of any victory, other than 
death, being possible: overthrow of 
"the system" being impossible) , 
Frank Quattrochi's The Sword 



118 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



119 



(well-written, with no weaknesses 
in plotting), and Waldo T. Boyd's 
The Salesman, a neat, well-written 
bit of subtle humor so rare in sci- 
ence-fiction. 

I'd like to compliment your art 
editor, Ed Valijnirsky, for his fine 
choice- of story illustrations. The 
cover-picture, and the two black- 
and-white pictures inside, are ex- 
cellent and in the best taste. 

Your magazine make-up, by the 
way, was discussed in the Depart- 
ment of Journalism of the Univer- 
sity of Houston as an outstanding 
example of good make-up. 

—Edward F. Lacy III 

6923 Schley St. 

Houston 17, Texas 

EXCUSE OUR AIRFOILS 

Gentlemen : 

I should first like to compliment 
you on the breadth and conceptual 
design of the inside cover drawings 
in the March issue of IF. 

However, to be a bit technical; 
granting that the invader rocket 
would have wings and control sur- 
faces for navigation in an atmos- 
phere, and granting further the air 
intakes since the craft might on 
occasion change over to jet oper- 
ation—it is not conceivable that 
the homing missiles would have air- 
foils of any nature. 

Since the missiles are obviously 
designed for operation on and 
around an airless world, airfoils as 
lifting or control surfaces would 
be totally useless and superfluous. 

If guidance is to be achieved, re- 
action vanes in the exhaust stream 
or rocket steering nozzles must be 
employed. 



But the drawings are lovely. 
■ — J. R. Schoenbaum 

Chief Engineer, Airlectron Inc. 
P.O. Box 151, Caldwell, N.J. 

WIDE MARGIN FOR ERROR 

Gentlemen: 

Curiosity impels an inquiry about 
my story in the March 1953 issue 
of IF. 

Why did you change the name? 

I am not refering to the name of 
the story, for in all justice I have 
to admit MARGIN OF ERROR 
is a better title than the one I sub- 
mitted. I mean why did you 
change the name of the author? 

Does Deeming have a nicer ring 
to it than Deming? 

— Richard Deming 
787 Central Ave. 
Dunkirk, N. Y. 

Well, yes, since you ask. But we 
do apologize. 

ENCORE, PLEASE 

Dear Sir: 

I would like to make a sugges- 
tion, hoping you will be able to 
adopt it. Could you persuade the 
author Kenneth O'Hara to write a 
sequel to his "Thy Name is Wom- 
an"? The possibilities for such a 
story are many. The theme of that 
novelette, as you know from recent 
newspapers, is not so extraordinary, 
but the build up could be made so. 

I do sincerely, hope that this sug- 
gestion can be worked, and believe 
me I shall await each edition. 

— John H. Hayes 
32 Main St. 
Bethel, Conn. 



120 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



It's safe to say Kenneth O'Hara 
will appear in these pages again, 
though any sequel must be at least 
as good as the original to be ac- 
cepted, and that isn't always easy. 
As for the timing of "Thy Name is 
Woman;," it was sheer coincidence; 
science is catching up with all 
kinds of science fiction! 

QUESTION AND ANSWER 

Dear Sir: 

I like Ed Valigursky's illustrations 
but how in the hell can his space- 
ships land? 

— Bert McDougle 
Belpre, Ohio 

The inside covers of this issue 
show (a) a spaceship landing and 
(b) a spaceship landed. Any other 
questions? 

WE WON'T STAMPEDE 

Dear Mr. Quinn: 

I should like to congratulate you. 
On what? On not being stampeded 
in a blind panic, into making a 
horrid thing out of your mag, but 
instead, hewing to the line^ and 
using discretion and discrimination 
and excellence as criteria for select- 
ing the stories you print. 

What do I mean by "thing"? 
Well, it's that nauseous combina- 
tion: big-name, spillane-lonnigan, 
yellow- journal-holly wood thing that 
so many editors seem to think they 
have to have or go on the rocks, 
heck knows why. Please stay like you 
are, huh? Don't catch that squirrel- 
ly virus. If you stay like you are 



you'll be thriving when the rest are 
just a memory In the Congressional 
Library files. 

Say, if you're not careful, you're 
liable to become the best mag. And 
that's some statement, from a fan 
who has been firmly loyal to 
Astounding, since volume one num- 
ber one! 

—Phyla Phillips 

222 East 7th St. 

Mishawaka, Ind. 

Thank you, Phyla. We're blush- 
ing slightly, but you summed up our 
present and future editorial policy 
so well we couldn't resist printing 
your letter. 

STF'S BIG SHOW 

Gentlemen : 

Willy Ley has accepted our invi- 
tation to be the guest of honor and 
principal speaker at the 11th World 
Science Fiction Convention, which 
will be held at the Bellevue Strat- 
ford Hotel in Philadelphia over the 
Labor Day weekend this year. Wil- 
ly's scientific accomplishments are 
many and varied, and his talks are 
always delightfully entertaining, so 
this is sure to be a worthwhile event 
for fans and readers. 

Willy's talk will climax an ex- 
ceptionally interesting program; 
we've made a special effort to sur- 
pass last year's Chicago convention 
and think we've succeeded, though 
it wasn't easy. Memberships or 
further information may be ob~ 
tained by writing Box 2019, Phila- 
delphia 3, Pennsylvania. 

— Milton A. Rothman 



I 



\ 




TITAN is the largest of Saturn's nine moons — almost 'as large as 
the planet Mars, in fa:t! The satellite is believed to have an at- 
mosphere, and it is alsc probable that water in a perpetually frozen 
state is present. The man in the foreground abcve is compiling 
data, while the other two gaze at the cloud-covered planet and its 
unique rings. [Drawings by Ed Vcligursky)